Better air for the Capital - what is being done?

Image: ccat82 /

Recent news:

The central task of the air quality plan is to assess and to develop measures to reduce the air pollution in order to meet the air quality limit values as quickly as possible everywhere in Berlin.

The action planning has been focusing on reducing nitrogen dioxide pollution, because the limit value for the annual average could not be safely met in 2020 in 117 polluted street sections (around 15 kilometers). Hence, we clearly need to consider further measures.

As our source analysis has shown, around three quarters of the nitrogen dioxide pollution stems from motorized road traffic, i.e. from the combustion engines in cars and trucks. The reduction of pollutant emissions from road traffic has therefore been a priority of the air quality plan.

The planning of measures was carried out in an integrated way taking into account existing thematic plans. This was true especially for road transport, based on Berlin’s new Mobility Act and the emerging planning processes, resulting in an update of the urban development plan for mobility and traffic and the local public transport plan. The urban development plans for centers, for trade and industry and for climate, the Berlin energy and climate protection program and the noise action plan were taken into account as well.

The measures of the second update of the air quality plan can be divided into three groups:

The following schematic illustrates the cascade of measures in the new Air Quality Plan

Enlarge photo: Cascade of measures in the new Air Quality Plan
Cascade of measures in the new Air Quality Plan
Image: SenUVK

1. City-wide measures

A large number of measures aimed to reduce pollutant emissions across the city.

First and foremost, this requires clean vehicles:

  • By retrofitting and modernizing the fleet of buses and municipal vehicles, Berlin is playing a model role in reducing emissions of its own municipal vehicle stock.
  • However, commercial transport will also be supported in its conversation to clean vehicles by prolonging the existing funding scheme for electric vehicles.
  • Furthermore, the retrofitting of commercial vehicles with after-treatment systems to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions is promoted, referring to available filter systems approved by the Federal Road Transport Authority.

However, clean vehicles alone are not enough, not least because fleet renewal takes time. Less motorized traffic is also improving the air quality.

  • The planned expansion of parking space management will not only reduce the traffic in search for a scarce parking space, it will also provide an additional incentive for people to switch from cars to local public transport, cycling or walking. Less car traffic means fewer emissions, so that a reduction in NO2 pollution can be achieved in the entire city centre.
  • At the same time, the promotion of public transport, cycling and walking is being pushed. In this particular way the air quality plan supports the goals of Berlin’s sustainable transport and climate protection policies.

The studies on the effect of the city-wide measures to promote clean and sustainable transport modes have shown that the air quality limit value can be met in around a third of the critical non-compliant roads.

In addition, the air quality plan includes measures in the areas of mobility management and logistics, passenger shipping, non-road mobile and stationary machines, heat supply as well as spatial and urban planning.

2. Local measures for particularly trafficked roads

The city-wide measures are insufficient for some roads with busy traffic load. Here, the annual limit value for NO2 can only be met with additional local measures. These are essentially:

For 33 road sections with a total length of 20.6 kilometers, 30 km/h speed limits were enforced aiming to smooth traffic flows and to avoid acceleration resulting in higher pollutant emissions. Experience in Berlin, for example with yearlong speed limits on Schildhornstrasse and Beusselstrasse has shown that NO2 reductions of up to 5 µg/m3 can be achieved because cars need to accelerate much less as they drive slower.

The following map shows the location of the main road sections with 30 km/h limit due to bad air quality:

List of all 30 km/h routes

  • Road

    Route with 30 km/h between

  • Albrechtstrasse

    Robert-Lück-Straße to Neue Filandastraße

  • Badstrasse

    Behmstraße to Exerzierstraße

  • Breite Strasse / Schönholzer Strasse

    Grabbeallee to Mühlenstraße

  • Danziger Strasse

    Schönhauser Allee to Schliemannstraße

  • Dominicusstrasse

    Ebersstrasse to Hauptstrasse

  • Hauptstrasse*

    Kleistpark – Innsbrucker Platz

  • Dorotheenstrasse

    Wilhelmstrasse to Friedrich-Ebert-Platz

  • Elsenstrasse

    Treptower Park to Karl-Kunger-Straße

  • Erkstrasse

    Karl-Marx-Straße to Sonnenallee

  • Hermannstrasse

    Mariendorfer Weg to Silbersteinstrasse (next to passage ban from Silbersteinstrasse to Emser Strasse, including 30 km/h speed limit)

  • Invalidenstrasse

    Alexanderufer to Scharnhorststrasse

  • Joachimstaler Strasse

    Hardenbergplatz to Kurfürstendamm

  • Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse

    Kantstrasse to Otto-Suhr-Allee

  • Kantstrasse*

    Amtsgerichtsplatz to Savignyplatz

  • Klosterstrasse

    Brunsbüttler Damm to Pichelsdorfer Straße

  • Leipziger Strasse*

    Markgrafenstrasse to Potsdamer Platz

  • Leonorenstrasse

    Bernkastlerstrasse to Kaiser-Wilhelm Strasse

  • Luxemburger Strasse

    Genter Strasse to Müllerstrasse

  • Mariendorfer Damm

    Westphalweg to Eisenacher Strasse

  • Martin-Luther-Strasse

    Lietzenburger Strasse to Motzstrasse

  • Mehringdamm

    Yorckstrasse to Bergmannstrasse

  • Müllerstrasse

    Seestrasse to Antonstrasse

  • Oranienburger Strasse

    Roedernallee to Wilhelmsruher Damm

  • Oranienstrasse

    Moritzplatz to Oranienplatz

  • Potsdamer Strasse*

    Potsdamer Platz to Kleistpark

  • Residenzstrasse

    Amende Straße to Lindauer Allee

  • Saarstrasse

    Rheinstrasse to the motorway bridge

  • Scharnweberstrasse

    Kapweg to Afrikanische Strasse

  • Schönholzer Strasse

    Wollankstrasse to Parkstrasse

  • Sonnenallee

    Thiemannstrasse to Reuterstrasse

  • Spandauer Damm

    Klausener Platz to Königin-Elisabeth-Strasse

  • Tempelhofer Damm*

    Ordensmeisterstraße to Alt-Tempelhof

  • Torstrasse

    Prenzlauer Allee to Chausseestrasse

  • Wildenbruchstrasse

    Sonnenallee to Weserstrasse

  • Wilhelmstrasse

    Karl-Marx-Straße to Sonnenallee

  • *Pilot routes of the 30 km/h trial

3. Local interventions in hot spots street sections, in particular tansit bans for diesel vehicles up to and including Euro 5/V

Transit bans for diesel vehicles up to and including Euronorm 5/V are unavoidable for eight most polluted streets, because none of the other measures are sufficient to meet the limit values by 2020. The State of Berlin was forced by Order of the Administrative Court of Berlin on October 9, 2018 to enforce such driving bans.

In order to avoid undue hardship for residents along the routes and for commercial traffic, residents are exempt from the transit ban. In addition, a speed limit of 30 km/h has also been enforced for all routes with transit bans in order to further reduce air pollution and ensure fast compliance with the NO2 limit value.

Diesel transit bans combined with speed limits of 30 km/h were (initially) imposed for the following routes:

  • Road

    Stretch from

  • Leipziger Strasse

    Leipziger Platz (east side) to Charlottenstrasse

  • Brückenstrasse*

    Köpenicker Strasse to Holzmarktstrasse

  • Reinhardtstrasse*

    Charitéstrasse to Kapelle-Ufer

  • Alt Moabit

    Gotzkowskystrasse to Beusselstrasse

  • Friedrichstrasse

    Unter den Linden to Dorotheenstrasse

  • Stromstrasse

    Perleberger Strasse to Turmstrasse

  • Hermannstrasse

    Silbersteinstrasse to Emser Strasse

  • Silbersteinstrasse

    Hermannstrasse to Karl-Marx-Strasse

  • *bans lifted in June 2021, because the NO2 – concentrations have dropped below 30 µg/m3 so that the air quality limit value of 40 µg/m3 is now safely met

The Air Quality Plan for Berlin, 2nd update

PDF-Document (11.6 MB)

Environmental Atlas Berlin: Scenario calculations and data underpinning the Air Quality Plan

Effects of selected scenarios on the NO2 air pollution along roads from motor vehicle traffic for the year 2020

Traffic-related air pollution along roads with projections for 2020 and 2025 Traffic-related air pollution along roads in the base year 2015