Skip to main content
EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article9 December 20191 min read

Barcelona plans for low emission zone by giving out free public transport cards

From the start of 2020, the Spanish city of Barcelona and its adjacent municipalities, will ban the most polluting vehicles from their roads on weekdays between 7.00 and 20.00. This will affect around 50,000 cars and motorbikes whose owners would face heavy fines if they are caught using their vehicle on the area's roads.

Knowing that the ban would be a significant step, Barcelona put in place alternative provisions. Back in 2017, the city decided to offer the owners of the affected vehicles a three-year long free travel card, as long as they handed over their vehicles to a scrapyard. This ticket, called the T-verde, gave recipients, who had to be residents of the city, access to Barcelona’s metro, intercity buses, trams, trains and all other public transport services operating in zone 1 of the area.

The T-verde was able to be registered to any family member, not only the vehicle’s former owner. However, the owner who scrapped their vehicle was not allowed to buy a new vehicle during the 3 years in which the T-verde was valid. Vehicles to which the scheme applied were diesel cars produced before 2006, petrol cars before 1997 and motorbikes registered before July 2004; the use of these will now be banned in the area. Since October 2017, about 5,700 T-verde cards have been given out, taking the same number of the most polluting vehicles off the city’s roads. 

However, the T-verde is only one measure amongst many that have been put in place to improve air quality in Barcelona. As Daniel Pi, technical coordinator of an association promoting public transport in Barcelona, pointed out: the T-verde card “isn’t the central measure” but rather “a nudge to get some people to take action”. On average, vehicles that have been scrapped in exchange for a T-verde ticket have been between 38 and 58 times more polluting than current models.

Barcelona's new low emission zone will be one of the largest in Europe, 20 times larger than that in the centre of the Spanish capital Madrid and on a similar scale to other examples, such as those in the UK capital, London.



Publication date
9 December 2019
  • Urban Vehicle Access Regulations
  • Spain