NYC Mayor Bloomberg says Turn off Engines

Guage showing speed of idle engineIdle hands are the devil’s workshop, mothers are fond of saying, but idling engines are being targeted as a worse offender.

Mom meant that if you’re not busy doing something constructive, bad things were bound to follow.

That’s also the rationale behind NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest law aimed at making the city more eco friendly. The mayor has added yet another piece of legislation to a growing list of environmentally friendly measures.

The new law will reduce the time drivers can run their engines while going nowhere.

Taxi cabs stopped in NYC

Bloomberg was named one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2008, in large part due to his focus on sustainability. Since elected, one of Bloomberg’s core missions as mayor has been to improve the city’s environmental footprint and livability and discourage urban sprawl by making the city more attractive.

The city’s new measure would further limit the time drivers can idle their engines in school zones. The maximum idle time has been cut by the new law down from three to one minute.

Yet with the new law also comes a greater emphasis and latitude in terms of enforcement. Many states have similar no-idling laws, but the restrictions most often go unenforced by police and other officials.

Another law was signed to complement the new one-minute restriction, one that now authorizes sanitation and parks & recreation departments to prevent engines from idling unnecessarily.  The old system allowed only city police and the department of environmental protection to kill wasteful running engines by ticketing their owners. NYC banned long-term idling in 1971.

The time restriction and enforcement laws were sponsored by city council members John C. Liu and David Yassky respectively.

Isabelle Bodmer Silverman is an attorney for the Living Cities program at the Environmental Defense Fund. The mother of two authored a study entitled “Idling Gets You Nowhere,” which delves into the adverse effects of engine idling.

“We applaud the mayor and city council for enacting these cost-free laws to improve air quality at the street level where our kids breathe, play and work,” said Silverman, “but it won’t mean a thing if the city doesn’t enforce them.”

The second new law seeks to curb that oversight.

According to the report, NYC idling annually wastes $28 million in fuel, produces 130,000 tons of climate changing carbon dioxide, and 940 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides.

Many drivers operate under the misconception that more fuel is wasted when an engine is started than through idling. The opposite is true with the majority of modern cars, which require less gas to start than is spent during 10 seconds of idling.

“People fall into the habit of idling because they are unaware of the law and the costs of idling,” said Silverman.

Photo Credit (gauge) by “N1NJ4” under a Flickr creative commons license.
Photo Credit (Taxis) by Tomás Fano under a Flickr creative commons license.

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