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Berlin to Take Steps for Cleaner Air

Cleaning up the air in Berlin is a priority for the Senate. The three-way left-wing coalition, consisting of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and ‘Die Linke‘ (‘The Left’) came forward with a plan for that purpose. Less vehicles are supposed to move in the city center. And those which do move will be cleaner.

Last year, more than 50mg of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter of air was registered at six spots in Berlin. The European Union’s official limit is 40mg. Berlin intends to get that value down to where it is supposed to be.

Regine Günther is Berlin’s Senator for the Environment, Traffic and Climate Protection. She had the new plan prepared. Pressured by a recent court verdict, those responsible are scrambling to pass an effective air pollution control plan. The latter will be published in April. Once it is public, Berlin residents will have to opportunity to comment on it.

Senator Günther said the purpose of the plan was to adhere to the E.U.’s rules regarding nitrogen dioxide emissions as soon as possible, and to protect the health of Berlin’s residents.

At the same time the Berlin Senate wants to protect inhabitants who were deceived by Germany’s auto industry and bought vehicles with Diesel engines before the Diesel scandal broke. As soon as next year, in 2020, Berlin intends to get its air pollution below the E.U. limits.

One measure Governing Mayor Müller’s coalition wants to take is to increase the number of paid parking zones substantially. At this stage, 40 percent of all parking areas in the boroughs Friedrichshain, Mitte, Neukölln and Tempelhof-Schöneberg are pay zones. That share is supposed to be increased to 75 percent. Moving around those parts of Berlin by car will be less attractive.

On top of those measures, parking in the city center will be more expensive, according to the draft plan. Instead of 2 Euro (2.27 Dollars or 1.71 Pounds) per hour, drivers will have to pay 3 Euro (3.41 Dollars or 2.57 Pounds). Residents can purchase vignettes, which give them the right to park close to their homes without paying for tickets.

By 2021, things will be even more difficult for drivers. By then, 100 percent of all parking areas in the boroughs mentioned will be pay zones. In some areas, Berlin has already set them up, by installing signs and ticket vending machines.

Also Berlin’s public transport will be cleaned up. The transport provider BVG is already in the process of testing electric buses, the share of which is supposed to increase over time. Older buses with conventional Diesel engines will be retrofitted with filters which will decrease their dangerous emissions by up to 85 percent. Trash trucks will be worked on too.

At this stage, older buses are causing ten to 25 percent of the
nitrogen dioxide emissions in some areas of the city. That is about to change. Once the planned measures kick in, the emissions are expected to decrease by 1mg.

But there is more: At 15 spots in Berlin, or a total of 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) of streets, a ban will be imposed for Diesel-powered vehicles below the Euro 5 standard.

But there will be lots of exceptions: Residents, their guests, delivery services, construction workers, caretakers and taxis will be allowed to enter those streets. The fines for contraventions will be relatively low.

On top of all of the above, the zones in which 30 km/h (18 mph) is the maximum speed will be extended. This will supposedly apply to 85 sections on 45 Berlin streets.

The Senate is already busy installing new bike lanes. Bicyclists and pedestrians will be protected more and they will have more space.

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