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With a population of 400,000 in the city and 1.3 million people in the suburban area, Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland. It is situated in the north of Switzerland, close to the German border. It is the country’s most important economic, social, touristic and scientific centre. Zurich is often mentioned as a city with a very high quality of life. Zurich hosts Switzerland’s largest railway station. The public transport network relies mostly on trams, trolleybuses and buses. The city’s comprehensive air quality strategy has made it this ranking’s overall winner.

Overall Grade: B+ 89%

Pie Chart 89
  • Graph Reduction Success Local Emissions
  • Graph Low Emission Zones & Bans of High Emitters
  • Graph Public Procurement Clean Cars
  • Graph Non-Road Mobile Emission Sources
  • Graph Use of Economic Incentives
  • Graph Traffic & Mobility Management Incl. Modal Split
  • Graph Promotion of Public Transport
  • Graph Promotion of Walking & Cycling
  • Graph Transparency & Communication Policy


Reduction Success Local Emissions

After a decrease in the number of days exceeding the limit value for PM10 between 2005 and 2009, a further reduction could be recorded until 2012. At the traffic station Stampfenbachstrasse, emissions decreased from 12 exceedance days in 2009 to 9 exceedance days in 2012. At the same time, the Kaserne background station reported 11 exceedance days in 2009 and 7 in 2012. Annual mean values for PM10 decreased from 22.6 µg/m³ to 19.8 µg/m³ between 2009 and 2012 at the traffic station, and from 19.6 µg/m³ to 17.4 µg/m³ at the background station.

The national limit value for PM10 annual mean values is 20 µg/m³ and one exceedance day per year (instead of the 40 µg/m³ mandated by EU regulations). NO2 annual mean values decreased and, at 34.0 µg/m³, were below the EU limit value of 40 µg/m³ for Stampfenbachstrasse in 2012, just missing the national limit values of 30 µg/m³.

Department of Health and Environment Zurich (Ger.):

Low Emission Zones & Bans of High Emitters

As there are no national regulations promoting low emission zones (LEZs), Zurich lacks the power to create them. However, when the city has asked the Canton of Zurich to cooperatively introduce a LEZ in the local air quality plan, they were not supported.

Public Procurement Clean Cars

All existing vehicles were required to be retrofitted with particulate filters by the end of 2010. The city has put in place regulations that require the strictest Euro standards available for new vehicles. These regulations can help to lower PM10 and NOx emissions from transport (PM10 43% and NOx 46% in 2010).

Since 2009, all vehicles need to meet Euro 5 requirements, making particle filters mandatory (motorcycles Euro 3). As soon as Euro 6 regulations are implemented in 2015, particle limits for buses and lorries will be reduced to make particle filters mandatory for them as well. Regulations only apply to new vehicles; existing older vehicles do not need to be adapted to the new regulations.

The public transport company only acquires new diesel buses that comply with the Euro V “Enhanced Environmentally Friendly Vehicle” standard and generally plans to convert their diesel bus fleet to electric trolley buses where possible.

As part of its CO2 reduction targets, the city has also set a fuel consumption reduction target of 2% per year (between 2006 and 2015). The municipal authorities use carpooling and car sharing services on business trips and for local use they have bicycles at their disposal.

Non-Road Mobile Emission Sources

One of the city`s regulations requires diesel-powered machinery over 18 kW to be equipped with a verified particle filter when working on municipal construction sites. For private construction sites, an obligation for particle filters is in place for machinery over 37 kW.

For construction sites with transport volumes bigger than 20,000 m³, the road transport vehicles must also meet emissions requirements. In this case, Euro emission standard IV or better is mandatory.

National website to Ordinance on Air Pollution Control, Section 4a: Requirements for Construction Machines and Particle Filter Systems (Engl.):

Use of Economic Incentives

Zurich has a comprehensive parking management policy, where the public parking supply was shortened from the 1990s onwards. There was a temporary increase in the number of parking spaces in 2013 as an urban public space reorganisation necessitated a new car park. However, this number should fall again by the end of 2015 Parking fees are high and constantly adapted and a further increase in parking fees for both public and residential parking spaces is planned to promote car-free living (48% of households are already car-free).

On a national basis, an emission-based toll for vehicles that weigh more than 3.5 tonnes was introduced on all roads in Switzerland in 2001. Before that, there was a fixed toll.

Traffic & Mobility Management Incl. Modal Split

The city is continuously moving away from motorised individual transport. Starting at a modal share of 35% in 2005, it was reduced to 28% by 2012. A further reduction to 24% is planned by 2020, parallel to higher public transport usage (42%) and higher shares of cycling (8%) and walking (26%). Motorised individual transport is envisioned to shrink to 20% of all transportation by 2025. Accordingly, the number of cars per capita is decreasing, currently standing at 357 cars per 1000 inhabitants.

The city currently limits traffic to 30 km/h in most residential areas. Main roads are generally limited to 50 km/h. In the context of a street noise reduction programme, the speed limit of an additional 100 municipal streets (or street sections) has been reduced to 30 km/h. Also in this regard, the limits on a number of supra-municipal streets were also further reduced.

Events attracting more than 5000 people have to submit a traffic concept that includes public transport and combi-tickets. Events which are free of charge have to pay a mobility charge which can be used to increase the capacity of public transport. There is a public car-sharing programme with a limited number of cars.

Website to urban mobility action plan until 2025 (Ger.):…

Promotion of Public Transport

The city has set public transport as a priority for decades. In the last five years, the frequency of public transport modes has increased, several new tram lines and a new fast S-Bahn (city train) track called Durchmesserlinie (literally, diameter line) were put into service recently. A further tram line connecting various parts of the city is planned, and the electrification and extension of two bus lines is planned by 2025. Overall, about 570 million euros will be spent. The city has established very good information and communication services for its public transport.

A further push for the usage of public transport can be expected through the ”2000-Watt-Gesellschaft“ project (2000-Watt Society).

Promotion of Walking & Cycling

In the context of the Masterplan Velo scheme there are measures to promote and increase cycling. Besides big measures like extending and securing a consistent, contiguous cycling network, there are also smaller measures like (electronic) bicycle route planners, a bicycle delivery service, and the promotion of bicycles at municipal events. Furthermore, there are subsidies for bike-to-work programmes.

The city wants to continuously introduce shared spaces, with 20km/h speed limit zones and pedestrian priority. There is a small bike rental system with 2 permanent and 4 temporary locations and free bike rental. However, a general bike sharing programme is not likely to be implemented because of the cost and lack of effectiveness.

The Velovignette, a mandatory third-party insurance for bicycles in Switzerland, was discontinued through a parliament decision in 2010 and a legislation amendment in 2012. It cannot be resumed, which changes the usage of bicycles in Zurich.

Regarding the promotion of walking, the city started a programme called “Züri z’Fuess” (colloquial for Zurich by foot), which provides walking paths and an interactive route planning mobile application for walking and cycling.

Website for walking routes (Ger.):

Transparency & Communication Policy

The Department of Health and Environment Zurich provides an official website with comprehensive background information on air quality, current pollution values, consultation possibilities, a Smartphone App called airCHeck, information on legislation and annual reports and studies. Furthermore, there is a direct contact. Additionally, the Round Table Transportation and Health uses expert advice to inform the civil society about the consequences of air pollution.

Department of Health and Environment Zurich (Ger.)

Response to Questionnaire

The City replied to the questionnaire.