Lisbon municipal parking company, EMEL, partnered with several Portuguese stakeholders to design and implement an internationally awarded integrated parking management and traffic conditioning scheme in the Portuguese capital historical neighborhoods.
Background & Objectives
Lisbon's historical neighborhoods, some of them survivors of the great earthquake of 1755, are by most part characterised by steep sloping narrow streets and alleyways. Moreover, the lack of parking spaces and, for a long time, non-existent on-street parking enforcement in these areas, made them not only non-appellative for the young, but also significant safety hazards.
This became clear in the 1988 Chiado fire, when several historical blocks were consumed by the flames while the fire brigades struggled to navigate the fine grain urban fabric. Most streets had been overtaken by anarchic parking, whereas others had been turned into exclusive walkable paths with no access for emergency vehicles.
To tackle this, and simultaneously promote the local dynamics, accessibility and quality of life, the city council entrusted EMEL with the mission of implementing and managing a scheme of traffic conditioning in four historical areas.
To design and implement the scheme, EMEL partnered with several stakeholders including the civil protection, fire department, police, tech companies, local parishes and traders unions. It became clear that multiple issues had to be addressed, from safety and mobility to commercial interests in the area. In order to promote the local livelihood, it wasn’t feasible to exclude cars altogether.
Consequently, a plan was devised to first implement a mixed system of traffic conditioning in the Bairro Alto neighborhood.>In 2002 automatic and remotely controlled barriers were erected in the accesses to this 38-block area.
Locals were given radio transponder devices that granted them free access. Public stakeholders, like public transports, were granted access by human operators, who remotely controlled the system 24/7 with the help of CCTV cameras. Visitors were also allowed access the same way, although only for limited periods of time.
The main obstacle in the implementation was the initial resistance by residents. This was eventually overcome as people got use to the technology and came to appreciate the benefits the system had to their daily lives.
Between 2003 and 2006, EMEL went on to implement similar systems in three other areas.
EMEL pursued the scheme development, using robust parking enforcement and a 24/7 control center to ensure drivers compliance. Furthermore, a RFID identifier system (using Lisbon public transport card) was eventually set up, with visitors being allowed free access for up to 30 minutes (having to pay hefty parking fees for extra time).
Today there are 2.500 drivers with automatic access devices (4/5 of which are residents). There has been a significant improvement both in the safety and mobility realities. Traffic jams were replaced with pedestrians’ congestion, with the areas experiencing a strong economic and urban rebound.
International recognition came in 2011 with the EPA first place on-street award. Furthermore, EMEL has been contacted by international stakeholders eager to learn from this innovative experience.