Environment 20 February, 2023 9:00 am   
COMMENTS: Maciej Józefowicz

Józefowicz: A Clean Transport Zone in Warsaw is a necessity (INTERVIEW)

czysty-transp-1536×726 Source: Freepik

A Clean Transport Zone is a necessity for Warsaw. More than 2.1 million cars have already been registered in the capital. To compare, in London, which has 10 million residents, the number of registered vehicles is higher only by 500 thousand. There are 850 cars per 1000 inhabitants. This is several times more than in Berlin or New York – says Maciej Józefowicz from the Green Party in an interview with Warsaw plans to introduce a Clean Transport Zone in 2026. Does the Green Party support this idea?

Maciej Józefowicz: A Clean Transport Zone (CTZ) is a must for Warsaw. More than 2.1 million cars have already been registered in the capital. To compare, in London, which has 10 million residents, the number of registered vehicles is higher only by 500 thousand. There are 850 cars per 1,000 inhabitants – several times more than in Berlin or New York. With the number of registered cars going up, without checking their emissions at the same time, the queues to the doctors are getting longer. Air pollution is already the source of one-fifth of deaths, as well as lung, heart, and cancer, both in adults and children. Therefore, quick and courageous decisions are necessary to improve the air quality in the city and at the same time increase the comfort of life of its residents. But the proposal put forward by the City Hall is like putting a band–aid on a broken leg – it is too conservative and too limited to be effective. This is a sham that will not improve the air quality in Warsaw and the health of Warsaw residents – which, as you can see, is not yet a priority in the municipal policies of the current Warsaw government.

According to the plans, the zone will cover three districts of Warsaw. The Greens want the original plan to be extended. How can it be improved?

First, expand the Zone. The proposal of the City Hall covers only seven percent of the area of Warsaw. Thus, the local government divides the Varsovians into better and worse categories. How are the lungs and health of people from Ursynów, Białołęka or Wesoła worse than those from Śródmieście, Wola or Saska Kępa? We all live in the same city, we expect its authorities to take care of us equally. We agree with the demands of anti-smog activists who say that the minimum version of the Zone should include an area where rail transport is available, i.e. trams and subway, or an area designated by the northern and southern ring roads of the city. However, in the optimal variant, the zone should cover, as in Kraków, the whole city. In studies commissioned by the city, almost 70 percent of respondents are in favor of expanding the Zone.

Secondly, the Zone should be introduced faster without waiting for the result of local elections. The health of the people of Warsaw is more important than the fear of criticism from political opponents.

Third, the city should introduce more ambitious goals when it comes to the Euro standards allowed in the Zone. In the first phase, the Zone will exclude such cars as Lanos, Tico or Fiat 126 p – cars that belong in a museum and no longer appear on the roads in Warsaw. Several years old diesel cars, which are responsible for most of the pollution, will still drive around the city. To change this, as anti-smog activists postulate, the zone should initially allow entry only to vehicles that meet the standards of Euro 5 (diesel) and Euro 3 (gasoline), and from 2026 Euro 6 (diesel) and Euro 4 (gasoline).

Finally, the introduction of the CTZ should go hand in hand with other measures to reduce car congestion in the centre and improve air quality. Meanwhile, thousands of pollution-generating furnaces are still being used in Warsaw. Wide streets for cars are still being built at the expense of wide sidewalks and bicycle paths. Without a comprehensive policy that improves the health and comfort of Warsaw’s residents, a CTP in a very modest scope will not be an effective tool.

In 2019, Kraków introduced an SCT zone in the Kazimierz district. However, the city quickly withdrew from this, among other things, due to the dissatisfaction of the residents of the area. Won’t the zone be a hindrance to the people of Warsaw?

The hindrance to everyday life now is primarily air quality, which affects everyone, whether they drive cars or not. Already, according to a survey commissioned by the City Hall, 87 percent of residents of Warsaw demand actions from the authorities to improve air quality, and 76 percent – the creation of the Zone itself. If the number of the most polluting cars is reduced by just 5 percent, the pollution goes down by 40 percent, so we expect that the benefits will be visible quickly. On the other hand, in order to meet the transport needs previously met by cars, we expect the city to invest more in accessible public transport and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure – so that Warsaw residents can move around the city quickly, comfortably and in a way that is friendly to health and the environment.

Interview by Jędrzej Stachura