- After new nitrogen oxide readings for Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter has spoken out against driving bans for diesel vehicles.
- At the beginning of 2018, the city of Munich set up its own measuring stations in order to obtain a broader factual basis in the dispute over air quality.
- The results now show that the statutory annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide was complied with at 16 out of 20 measuring stations.
- The Administrative Court of Munich had sentenced the Free State to a complaint of the German environmental aid, to submit for Munich an air pollution control plan, which also includes the possibility of diesel driving bans.
Dieter Reiter does not tend to get excited. But when the Mayor of Munich learned in the summer of 2017, which terrifying high nitrogen oxide levels had been determined nationwide for the city, he was in turmoil. Reiter attacked the worst threat for hundreds of thousands of diesel drivers in Munich: He brought driving bans into conversation. Shortly thereafter, the SPD politician also announced to build 20 new air measuring points in the city. He wanted to be sure about the quality of the Munich air. The worst was feared.
The result is something completely different. The results of the urban monitoring stations are, to put it mildly, so positive that they could be wonderfully placed in the lobby of non-driving opponents in the excited debate over the pollution of cities by nitric oxide. At least at first glance. For it reveals that at 16 of the 20 city monitoring sites over the year 2018, a nitrogen dioxide average was found to be below the prescribed limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter.
The measurements show, according to Reiter, that the calculations of the Free State, based on the past, were "obviously inaccurate". The real measured values would be "well below the calculations of the Environmental Office" throughout the city. In view of this, riders are no longer required to use driving bans.
Unlike car friends and driving ban opponents, the Lord Mayor, however, does not think that everything is in perfect order. On the contrary. For on the major Munich inland roads, the values are still well above the limits, in the Tegernseer Landstraße in the south of Munich about 57 micrograms per cubic meter. Anyone who pokes their head out of the window at rush hour or is traveling by bike does not need a measuring device: you can smell the thick air.
It is also obvious there and in many other parts of the Mittlerer Ring, which is one of the big arterial roads and circles around the city, that Munich not only has a problem with the air, but also with the simple mass of cars Damming on the streets every day. So far, the fight against this metal avalanche well with the nitrogen dioxide values could lead. This argument now loses clout. In this sense, the good news about the better air values for Munich comes at an inopportune time.
But how was it possible for so long to be discussed on the basis of misleading values? This is due to the different methods of measurement. The higher values of the Bavarian State Office for the Environment result from measurements at only five installed stations. The remaining burden on the urban area was extrapolated on the basis of this data and in a complicated procedure. Many factors play a role in this, for example the construction along the roadside – whether there are tall houses or just a cemetery wall.
The composition of the vehicle fleet was included, such as the share of diesel engines and the age of the fleet as a whole. And of course the amount of cars that rush by every day. Their number continues to increase because of population growth, Munich has a good 200,000 more people than it did ten years ago.
So are the results of the calculation models vulnerable – or has the situation improved? "Both," says Munich Environmental Officer Stephanie Jacobs. The calculations were professional and made according to a reliable methodology. But just with figures from 2015. What also confirms the State Office for the Environment, which had assigned the complicated numbers games to an engineering firm. Especially the fleet should have been a completely different 2015. Meanwhile, newer engines are in use, often with better emission control systems. There are more electric cars, where the pollutants arise not in the city center, but far out at the power plant. Strictly speaking, the situation has not relaxed within one year, but in comparison to 2015.
In any case, air quality has been improving since the mid-1990s – which is a bit contradictory to the excitement of the debate. This is shown by all the data, including that of the five Munich measuring stations of the Free State. As a result, on the busy Landshuter Allee in 2014, 83 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide were measured per cubic meter, compared to 66 in 2018.
For fine dust, the number one air problem ten years ago, the limit values have been met for several years. Even at the Landshuter Allee, which at that time achieved nationwide fame in the negative sense, there is not much to complain about. Again, the renewal of the car fleet has played a crucial role. Of course, the big Munich transport axes are still far away from a fresh air oasis. It just can not be really healthy if more than 100,000 cars rush by every day. And this situation prevails at almost every section of the Middle Ring.
Environmental Officer Jacobs now wants to draw conclusions from the measured values. The City Council has already officially stated its intention to tighten the existing environmental zone in the city center. The decision was prophylactic, because that would require a nitric oxide badge, which only the federal government can introduce. This "Reserve Resolution", however, was based on the old horror numbers. Jacobs thinks that based on the new figures and the federally discussed tolerance for moderately loaded roads, one has to rethink what is necessary to get the Munich air clean.