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How to Make Restricted Traffic Areas Fairer.

ZTL Zone Sign
Restricted Traffic Zone Sign in Italy

Italy has many cities in which ZTLs exist.  These Zone Traffico Limitato areas are designed to prevent thousands of cars clogging up Italy’s city centres, and to help reduce pollution levels.  But they are causing major headaches for tourists in Italy.

As is evidenced by my fast becoming infamous Speeding, and other traffic fines in Italy post and its accompanying 400 odd comments, many tourists are being caught out by such zones in Italy.

Receiving a fine often a year or so after a visit to Italy is leaving a bad taste in many people’s mouths, not to mention their wallets.  Many are vowing not to return to Italy, which is a shame, and are telling others not to go to Italy either, which is even worse.

Here are a few ideas which could make these problematic restricted traffic zones in Italy a little fairer, and stop Italy from potentially losing millions in income from tourism too.

Clearer Signs

Italian road signs are confusing and cluttered at best, so something clearer would help.

Obviously having street signs in 30 or so different languages is not practical.  Therefore, a better way of indicating the existence of and entry into such zones needs to be found.

How about a flashing light indicating that motorists are about to enter such a zone?

I’m not sure which colour would be most effective, but at least it would be easier to see the lights.  Drivers would have time to react and find an alternative route.  And lights would be much easier to recognize by an international audience than road signs written in Italian.

Give People a Way Out

Clearly marked alternative routes, taking motorists away from limited traffic areas, would also be useful.

Such routes would need signs in the same colour as the flashing lights indicating entry into  a limited traffic area.

Put the Restricted Traffic Zones on GPS Systems

Go for it Garmin, Tom-Tom, and the rest.  Plot Italy’s restricted traffic zones on your GPS navigators. I’ll sell them through Blog from Italy too, if you want me to.

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Alternatively, Italy’s local authorities could be intelligent and pop GPS beacons systems on road signs marking the entrances and exits from these pesky restricted traffic zones.  Drivers would then get some visual or audible warning via their GPS navigators which might just give them enough time to find a better route – which, of course, the clever GPS navigator unit could show.

The result would be fewer fines and drivers who would be happier to come back to Italy.

Parking Areas

Of course, not everyone wants to use a GPS navigator.

Where possible, just after or before flashing lights indicating the start of a limited traffic zone, clear signs showing official parking areas could be displayed.  Again, this would stop traffic entering these zones, and give poor tourists more of a chance.

Happy Tourists Return

Yes, the above would require some thought and organisation, but as a result, useful tourist income would not be lost, and people would cease to speak ill of Italy.  Additionally, the number of vehicles entering city centres would be reduced simply because drivers would understand that they are entering an area in which they cannot drive.

Then if someone does receive a fine, they would be more likely to think ‘Oh dear, I’ve been daft’, not, as many tend to think now ‘Oh damn, I’ve been hoodwinked/ ripped off’.

A few relatively simple measures would make everyone’s life a little easier and would demonstrate that Italy does give a damn about tourists.

Of course, if something is not done, then many will conclude that the primary purpose of the Italian ZTL is not to protect the environment, but purely to make money for Italian local authorities.  This is not really ethical.

Italian tourism authorities could work with municipal bodies in order to ensure that traffic levels are reduced whilst at the same time keeping Italy’s wonderful cities as tourist friendly and accessible as possible.

Although it may be true that only very few of the millions who visit Italy every year are affected by ZTL fines, an old marketing principle is that one happy person will not tell anyone, whereas one unhappy person will tell 100 others.

Italy is Losing $2 Billion a Year

As at today, 18 November 2009, my original speeding fines post has been seen over 7000 20,000 times.   Would Italy like to lose 700,000 2,000,000 paying tourists?  I think not.  Assume each tourist spends an average of $1000-00, then that’s $2 billion in income which Italy is losing every year.  Quite a lot of cash, don’t you think?

And all this income from traffic fines will eventually start to dry up – probably at about the same time as many hotels in certain areas of Italy start closing down, followed by restaurants, shops and lots of other businesses serving the tourism sector in Italy.

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