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Milan, Italy Adopts Congestion Tax
Milan, Italy adopts eco-friendly language in adopting a congestion charge designed to raise $35 million in annual revenue.

Milan, Italy yesterday introduced a new tax on motorists entering the city's downtown area. Called Ecopass, the new fee of up to 10 Euros (US $15) will be imposed from 7:30am to 7:30pm. Those driving politically favored vehicles such as the Toyota Prius are offered a free ride, allowing the local government to emphasize the program is more about "cleaner air" than reduced congestion, as new data show that London's congestion tax has actually increased bottlenecks.

Milan expects to generate 24 million Euros (US $35 million) each year from the tax alone. Cameras mounted at forty-three locations surrounding the city record the comings and goings of every motorist will generate significant additional revenue by charging between 81 and 285 Euros (US $120 to $420) on anyone who either neglects to pay the tax 24 hours after entering the zone.

Following London's model, Milan is expected to expand the existing five square mile charging zone and boost the cost of the fees once the program is established. The UK capital, for example, will charge unfavored SUVs and sports cars £25 (US $50) to enter the downtown area. Money raised from motorists will be used to subsidize public transit. Politicians in official vehicles are exempt from paying the tax.

Congestion charging is a sensitive political issue. Voters in Stockholm, Sweden tossed out the political party responsible for creating a congestion tax in 2006. In 2005, voters in Edinburgh, Scotland rejected a congestion tax with a decisive 3-1 vote against the idea in a referendum. New York City, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes to have his own congestion tax system operational by 2009.

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