Catarina Teixeira is 77 years old, but young ideas. It is part of the Misericórdia Residents’ Association and endorses the Lisbon City Council’s project to remove cars from the Baixa area, by creating a Reduced Emissions Zone (ZER). You are thinking about the environment, the pollution of the capital and the future of the younger generations. And, even if a “little bit afraid” of how the change could affect the elderly and the ease of access to their homes in an emergency, awaits “improvements”. “I am in favor. Citizenship is needed”, he tells DN, at the end of the first public presentation session of ZER, this Thursday, in the space of the Parish Council of Misericórdia.
The house was full. Residents, family members, traders, tour operators mobilized to ensure that Fernando Medina, Mayor of Lisbon, knew his concerns. The sense of traffic on the streets and conditioned places raised the tone of voices, without forgetting the issue of visits to residents and the limitations imposed on operators of uncharacterized vehicles from an electronic platform (TVDE), such as Uber or Bolt, while taxis can continue to move freely.
Opinions differ widely. Not everyone applauded the opinion of resident Catarina Teixeira. There were those who asked to speak: “They are making my life miserable. I am already taking steps to leave” or to speak of public insecurity with the decrease in the movement of cars. Fernando Medina was available to listen to criticisms and make changes to the project – which should only be approved in March and the regulation sent for a period of public consultation -, but made it clear that he wants to move forward with the idea and that there is no other alternative. to reduce the amount of pollution in this area. “This is perhaps one of the most important proposals with which we are working on this municipal mandate”, the mayor referred again.
During a presentation, before Question Time, Fernando Medina announced that Avenida da Liberdade and Avenida Almirante Reis exceed the maximum limit of carbon dioxide emissions proposed by the Paris Agreement by 50%. “Pollution is an invisible enemy”, he pointed out and promised to reduce it with measures that are within his reach. It wants to meet the environmental goals, reducing traffic congestion. Faced with the pollution caused by Lisbon Airport, the Cruise Terminal and the real impact of these measures, Medina said that the city continued to “have to solve a problem associated with car pollution”.
ZER’s proposal foresees that car traffic in Baixa-Chiado will become exclusive for residents, badge holders and authorized vehicles (dealers, taxis, motorcycles and electric vehicles) with registration after 2000, between 06.30 and 00.00, starting in the summer. The exception is all cars of citizens with reduced mobility, security forces and services, civil protection and emergency services, funeral vehicles in service, motorcycles, mopeds and cycles.
ZER covers part of the parishes of Santa Maria Maior, Misericórdia and Santo António, being bordered to the north by Calçada da Glória, Praça dos Restauradores and Praça do Martim Moniz, and to the south by the axis formed by Cais do Sodré, Rua Ribeira das Naus, Commerce Square and Alfândega Street.
In this first session of public presentation was also the president of the Parish Council of Misericórdia, Carla Madeira, elected by the PS, who believes that this project can “improve the quality of life” of people. Despite this, Carla Madeira did not fail to present its reservations regarding the number of times that a visit from a resident can park in the area (ten per month) and in relation to the period established for loading and unloading to be only during the night (between midnight and 6:30 am). As a solution to the first problem, he suggested the creation of an hour bank “so that each resident can have a set of hours throughout the month”.
Taxis, Ubers and Tuk-tuk
“Why do taxis have the privilege of being able to pass and uber not, for example?” Asks a resident. Taxis belong to automobiles with an exception regime in this plan. The remaining operators will have to have electric vehicles to transport passengers to Baixa.
Fernando Medina explains that “the law treats uber differently from taxis”, since the latter are subject to regulation and a contingent, approved by the Chamber. The first ones do not, and therefore there is fear that they will replace cars that are being banned from entering Baixa, making the project unfeasible. “In the cities where Uber was allowed to circulate, after a short time”, they were “still congested”, said the president.
The question of the tuk-tuk that currently circulate in Baixa and on which the plan has not yet passed a sentence was raised by tourist agents. Medina assumed that his desire is to restrict the number of these vehicles, again for the sake of congestion, but promised to sit down with the industry associations to reach a compromise together.
Theft, drugs and insecurity
This promised to be the parish where the test of the idea of Medina could be more accepted, as it was the area of least change. Even so, the mayor was unable to escape criticism and trampling during his speech. Residents were also concerned about insecurity in the Misericórdia area and accused Medina of not resolving the situation.
One of the residents denounced situations of frequent robberies and an increase in drug trafficking in Largo do Calhariz, who fear that it will be even more unprotected after the works. In response to this concern, the mayor admitted to knowing the situation and that “it has been getting worse”, but that the proposal of the Chamber to install a video surveillance system in the area is awaiting authorization from the Ministry of Internal Administration and the National Data Protection Commission. “As soon as we have the ok, the cameras will be installed,” he promised.
As for the application of ZER, the changes are scheduled for the summer – during the months of July, August. Until then, during the month of February, the city council executive will be presenting the project to parish councils, residents’ associations, merchants and the municipal assembly. Only in March, the plan should be approved and the regulation sent for a period of public consultation. In June, information campaigns about the new rules will begin, although registration for obtaining the badges may be carried out from May.