Urban Vehicle Access Regulations (such as low emission zones, zero emission zones, tolling/congestion charging, pedestrian areas, parking schemes and limited traffic zones) can help cities to comply with EU air quality standards and to limit congestion and traffic-borne emissions and increase safety. Access is usually dependent on the vehicle type, emission class and payment of tolls or fees.
In Europe, 73% of Urban Vehicle Access Regulations (UVARs) are low (and zero) emission zones.
On the one side, and from a conduciveness perspective to the EU single market, it is paramount that where UVARs are deployed they allow for seamless and user-friendly travel.
On the other side, cities are often unable to properly enforce effective and functional schemes. These challenges are particularly serious for foreign vehicles, even when they have zero emissions.
To improve the situation, the EU has focused and will further concentrate its efforts on improving the efficiency and user-friendliness of UVARs, taking into account the principle of subsidiarity. It will also explore the full potential of digitalisation and technological pathways.
The Expert Group on Urban Mobility and its subgroup on UVARs will assist the European Commission in the preparation and implementation of relevant policy measures. The recommendations will address developments and possible action by administrations, users and relevant projects. The group will look into personal mobility and freight aspects as well as best practice on parking and dynamic urban space management in cities.
Against this background, the following legislative acts and initiatives/projects are particularly relevant amongst others:
- Regulation (EU) 2018/1724 on the Single Digital Gateway, requires public authorities to provide information to road users on traffic rules and procedures – including on UVARs. Regarding the procedure for obtaining emission stickers for Low Emission Zones, the Regulation stipulates that such stickers issued by a public body or institution must be fully available online by 12 December 2023. Information on national traffic rules regarding UVARs should have been made available by municipal authorities as of 12 December 2022.
- Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/962 on real time traffic information (RTTI) requires Member States to give access to a broad range of static and dynamic data through the National Access Points (NAPs). The Regulation was revised in 2022 and renamed 2022/670. It includes new data sets, such as those pertaining to UVARs (applicable from January 2025 onwards).
- The UVARbox project has helped cities in five Member States to provide data in a standardised format on urban and regional UVAR schemes.
- The UVARexchange project focusses on improving the communication of information to drivers in the vicinity of UVAR zones and on improving the local authorities’ access to information, especially with respect to foreign vehicles and drivers, for seamless travel, the facilitation of compliance assessment and the enforcement of UVARs by local authorities.
The Civitas-ReVeAL project adds UVARs to the standard range of urban mobility transition approaches used by cities across Europe by applying conceptual work and research on case studies alongside hands-on UVAR implementation in six pilot cities. It helps cities to optimise urban space and transport networks through new and integrated packages of urban vehicle access policies and technologies – leading to fewer emissions, less noise and improved accessibility and quality of life.