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What is the Low Emission Zone and what phases are necessary to implement it

Cloud computing

Environmental sustainability is the order of the day. For this reason, reducing pollution is an unfinished business for many cities.

This is why the new Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition was born; this law compels Spanish cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants to establish urban Low Emission Zones (LEZs) in order to improve air quality and achieve a healthier environment for the citizens.

In this article, we will explain you what this measure is about and what are the phases to implement the LEZ.

What is the Low Emission Zone?

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The Low Emission Zone or LEZ is a measure to reduce greenhouse gases, improve air quality and preserve people's health. To achieve this goal, a limited circulation area for non-polluting vehicles is created in the city, such as the one we are helping AMB to implement in Barcelona, the largest LEZ in Europe today.

In these areas, vehicles without DGT (Spanish Directorate-General for Traffic) environmental label may not be able to travel under certain circumstances or depending on the day and time. Therefore, in order to implement the LEZ, it is necessary that the city registers the information of the license plates that pass through certain accesses and that also contrasts this information it with the DGT vehicle database.

What cities must comply with the measure?

According to the new Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition, it has been agreed to create Low Emission Zones in municipalities and island territories with more than 50,000 inhabitants before 2023. This measure will affect 149 Spanish cities. In addition, municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants and deficient air quality will also have to establish the LEZ.

At the same time, city councils must foster sustainable mobility through public transport, bicycles, scooters or other similar methods.

Technological elements to manage the LEZ

The management of the LEZ requires the use of capture, management and information systems.

Capture systems

Capture systems refer to fixed license plate recognition cameras, vehicle mounted cameras and the web application for the local police. These elements make it possible to identify the license plates of the vehicles that circulate within the LEZ.

Management systems

Management systems require a platform that performs all the communication logic with the capture, information and penalty systems

This management system is made up of:

  • Management platform (back office). Web application for the management of the system. It allows configuring the logic parameters for those vehicles likely to be penalized, consulting stored records, registering and maintaining capture systems, as well as checking the alerts that may have been generated.
  • Data platform (BI). Web application for the use of different indicators.
  • Watcher App. Responsive private web or app that enables authorized users to check if a specific vehicle is allowed to travel within the LEZ.
  • API. First layer of interaction with the platform’s back end.
  • Back end. Logic parameters and processes to record and maintain data from information systems. It also carries out the logic parameters for vehicles likely to be penalized.
  • Integrations. Integration of the LEZ platform into different data sources to retrieve the information necessary for the service and on the city council platforms.

Information systems

Information systems are in charge of collecting the information from different sources so that the aforementioned Management system can decide whether a vehicle is likely to be penalized, the type of infraction and the amount to be applied. The sources of information are the following:

  • DGT: The DGT periodically provides an updated database of environmental labels and the standardization category of vehicles in order to decide if they are affected by restrictions and moratoriums.
  • Air quality alerts: In the event of a declared pollution episode, it is indicated into the system, both to automatically display information in different media and to apply the related protocols.
  • Metropolitan registry of authorizations: Firstly, the database of authorized vehicles generated by the Metropolitan registry application is consulted. Then, it is necessary to check whether the vehicle was exempt or had a valid authorization on the day it was photographed. This check is done three days after the picture, to allow for some emergency authorizations.
Implementation of the LEZ

One of the first questions that arise when establishing the LEZ is the area involved. In the Guía técnica para la implementación de Zonas de Bajas Emisiones (Technical Guide for the implementation of Low Emission Zones) created jointly by AMB, the FEMP (Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces) and the DGT, two restriction schemes are proposed:

  • The entire city or the entire metropolitan area. It is recommended to set the largest possible area, with the possibility of excluding industrial parks. In this case, the restriction scheme is initially limited to vehicles without an environmental label and without any type of exemption for residents.
  • A reduced area, such as old towns, downtowns or sensitive environments (schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.). For reduced areas, LEZs must present more restrictive traffic criteria and allow only vehicles with Environmental Label 0 (electric and plug-in hybrid) to travel. In this case, temporary moratoriums can be proposed for residents of the LEZ.

A successful implementation of the LEZ requires setting the following phases: planning, operational design, launching and follow-up.

Phase 1: Planning

The initial step before implementing a measure of this magnitude is planning. To do this, AMB recommends the following:

  • Measures program on mobility planning
  • Institutional agreement
  • Characterization study of the vehicle fleet
  • Inventory of emissions caused by mobility
  • Assessment studies on environmental impact
  • Studies on opinion and acceptance

Phase 2: Operational design

In this phase, the following points should be considered:

  • Approval of the legal framework
  • Supplementary measures
  • Communication and awareness campaign
  • Design, manufacture and installation of road signs
  • Design of the management and control system

Phase 3. Launching

The preparatory process ends here, and the following starts:

  • Penalty system
  • Vehicle control
  • Vehicle registration
  • Communication campaign

Phase 4. Follow-up

The development of a technological platform is required to manage the large amount of data that will be generated by:

  • Calculation of follow-up indicators
  • Surveillance and observation of compliance with the objectives of the measure
  • Design and proposal of corrective measures, if necessary

All these phases must be encompassed in an open, participatory process before, during and after the implementation of the LEZ. This process must also be transverse during all its stages, in order to make the measure known to citizens and also collect their proposals and opinions.

More information

This article is based on the Guía técnica para la implementación de Zonas de Bajas Emisiones (Technical Guide for the implementation of Low Emission Zones), created by AMB and the FEMP. You can check the documents here.

If you are looking for a technological partner to accompany you in the creation of the Low Emissions Zone, contact us and we will contribute all our experience in the creation of the Barcelona LEZ. You can also find more information in our brochure about the LEZ.