Rīga mulls possibility of low emission zones with entry fee

To limit emissions at the Rīga city center, the council is discussing a fee for private transport entry during peak hours, Inese Andersone, chair of the City Development Committee of Riga City Council, said in an interview to Latvian Radio January 5.

Entry charges in peak hours in the city's low-emission zone could be set to provide cleaner air and encourage public transport, Andersone noted.

“We have to look at a change in everyday habits as a whole. And how we move individually,” Andersone said.

The low emissions zone is planned to be the whole historic center between the railway and the Daugava where air pollution currently exceeds the norms set by both Latvia and the European Union. The project will start next year and will be implemented gradually by 2027. Initially, a six-month study will assess how to limit emissions in the capital and how to limit the flow of cars in that zone.

Car traffic is planned to be reduced by 20%, Andersone said. This would benefit drivers and pedestrians by reducing congestion and providing fresher air.

The idea of entry fees is not supported by the Latvian Regional Alliance (LRA) and the National Alliance.

"I know that an action plan for the mobility of Riga areas has been developed. There are clear things that have long been identified, already specific things that should be implemented. The Latvian Regional Alliance and I, as Vice Mayor of Riga, do not currently support the introduction of a fee from our part in the Riga Center or other measures. I don't think people are driving around the center for no reason,” said Edvards Smiltēns, representative of LRA.

Several countries have entry charges during congestion hours, like London, Paris, Berlin, Gothenburg.

However, the residents surveyed by LTV find it difficult to see the justification for the entry fee, if any.

A taxi driver said: “During peak hours, in all centers, all cities, all around the world, there is congestion. In Rīga, I think we need another bridge. It's really hard to cross the Vanšu bridge when there is a jam."

Resident Valdis said: “If there are places to park these cars around Rīga or Pierīga, maybe. Probably, it's going to be complicated.”

“If the cars of the last few years comply with the legislation, you don't have to pay anything. I think the Riga City Council just wants to raise more money,” Ludmila said.

Marta added: “I live in Mārupe myself, I find myself at a disadvantage. All people will think about it from their own viewpoint."

The City Development Committee of Riga City Council explained that the company PricewaterhouseCoopers will carry out studies and develop potential scenarios that will later be submitted to public consultation. At the moment, it is not known whether a fee is a suitable solution. The cost of the study would be around €400 thousand.

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