Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


LET’S ASSUME for a moment that the U.S. Declaration of Independence’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has personal mobility as one of these pursuits. If so, and if trends continue, there are conflicts a’brewing that could make us car folk wish it were included.

Take away our cars?

The use of automobiles is being limited all over the world. Some of the reasoning, rational indeed, is related to congestion, clean air and heritage. (For instance, transforming historic city centers into pedestrian-only.) Other motives are social-engineered, promoting population densification, vertical abodes and mass transit.

London. A Congestion Charge of £11.50 ($16.39) per day is levied on most vehicles entering the central part of London on weekdays, between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. There are subtleties galore, including discounts and exemptions for residents and clean-air vehicles, respectively. The scheme was started in 2003 and, in 2013, it had reportedly reduced traffic volume by 10 percent.


The specific area has changed since 2003, but generally it encompasses familiar London sights. Original image from

A diplomatic tidbit: 29 countries, including Germany, Japan, Russia and the U.S., consider their embassies’ vehicles exempt. In May 2011, Barak Obama was fined £120 during a state visit to Buckingham Palace. The U.S. claimed diplomatic immunity and stiffed the Congestion Charge.

Delhi. The World Health Organization identifies this Indian capital as the world’s most polluted city. To counter this, for a 15-day period beginning January 1, 2016, half of Delhi’s vehicles, based on odd/even number plates, were kept off the streets from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Smog in the Anand Vihar area of New Delhi, December 2015. Image from The Telegraph.

All city schools were closed so that school buses could be dedicated to public transportation. Streets were swept to reduce dust. (I’ll bet that really helped.) And some coal-fired utilities were closed down temporarily.

In commenting about Delhi’s experiment, The Telegraph, January 2, 2016, reported,“Over the past few days, a side industry supplying fake number plates has sprung up across the city, while the city’s richer residents have simply bought second cars with an alternative number plate to sidestep the plan.”

Mexico City. The Hoy no Circula (Spanish: Today [your car] does not circulate) plan has been in effect in Mexico City and its environs since 1989. Its complexities suggest a logician’s fine touch.


Part of the Mexico City plan to reduce weekday pollution and congestion.

In theory, each weekday between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., 20 percent of Mexico City’s vehicles are kept off the streets, dependent on the last digit of their number plate. However, this is also tied to semi-annual pollution testing and the affixing of stickers affecting matters.


“Welcome to Mexico City.” Image from

For example, certain new cars (those with high mpg/low emissions) get 00 stickers that exempt them from Hoy no Circula and from emissions testing for up to 6 years. Another category is for cars less than 9 years old which may qualify for a 0 sticker also exempting them from the program.

There’s an addendum concerning people avoiding the tenencia, the vehicle property tax: If no tenencia, then no emission testing, nor sticker and thus no legal road use.

On the other hand, emergency vehicles, those with solar or electric power, or handicap-plated vehicles operated by the handicapped are exempt. So are diplomatic vehicles, so Obama is safe.

Also free of Hoy no Circula are antiguo-plated cars, those older than 30 years, inspected by local authorities who receive a considerable fee, currently around $1000 U.S.

Paris. By contrast, beginning July 2016, classic cars in Paris become weekend-use only. And not just Bugattis or Voisins; the regulation applies to any car built before 1997. The motivation is clean air, not congestion.


Citroën 2CVs explore the Champs-Élysees. Image from Automotive News, June 6, 2016.

On the other hand, I imagine seeing a Bugatti Type 43 Grand Sport motoring down the Champs-Élysées would certainly stop traffic at 5 p.m. on a Friday. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016


  1. Gene Herbert
    June 14, 2016

    I hold the contrarian view, the automobile is the greatest mass transit vehicle ever invented.

    • simanaitissays
      June 14, 2016

      As you may know, I agree. However, it’s also good to know the social-engineering opposition.

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