Paris just officially banned all pre-1997 model automobiles from driving in the city center on weekdays. This ban affects roughly half a million vehicle owners, and it was conceived as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce air pollution and smog in the French capital. While older vehicles represent approximately 10% of the city’s vehicle stock, they account for nearly half of all emissions in Paris.
Despite extensive efforts to alter the city’s road activity, Paris remains one of Europe’s smoggiest cities. To combat its smog problem, Paris has already introduced car-free days, closed some of its most iconic thoroughfares to motor vehicles, and has taken action to drastically reduce the number of cars on the road. Its latest anti-pollution policy will go into place on July 1st, after which all cars registered before 1997 and all motorcycles registered before 2000 will be banned in Paris.
Those with historic cars are still subject to the bans. However, drivers remain free to use these vehicles in Paris on the weekend. More concerning is the prospect that the ban on older cars may disproportionately affect low-income Parisians, who may not have the funds to purchase more modern vehicles. While heavy-handed bans are usually unpopular, this policy is only one piece of a broader effort to transform transportation in Paris. The city is also dedicating resources to alternative modes of transportation, including a citywide bikeshare program and a new electric scooter share service called Cityscoot.
American cities also look to expand their alternative transit systems, though a ban on older vehicles seems out of the question. When NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted a less stringent policy that would have charged a “congestion fee” to drivers in parts of Manhattan, he was rebuffed without his policy even receiving a vote in the New York State Assembly.