Council likes ban on prolonged car idling

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto City Council paved the way last night (Aug. 28) for a new ordinance that would require drivers to shut off their engines after two or three minutes of sitting idly.

The council voted 8-0-1 (Councilman Adrian Fine was absent) to direct City Manager Jim Keene to draft an ordinance. Whether it would include a fine for violators is yet to be determined.

The city would be following in the footsteps of Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Ann Arbor, which have already passed anti-idling ordinances that require drivers to turn off their cars if they sit idle for more than three to five minutes.

A memo by Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and council members Eric Filseth, Karen Holman and Tom Du-Bois lists that according to some studies, the average city in the U.S. emits 13 tons of carbon a day from idling.

Educating idlers

Keene suggested a focus on education, rather than fining violators.

Holman noted that an “absolute proliferation” of anti-idling signs likely wouldn’t be welcome around town, but that notices, especially at construction sites where diesel-powered construction vehicles often idle, would be the right approach.

The city’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan calls for reducing 224,600 tons of carbon by 2030. Of that, 111,900 tons would come from transportation emissions.

Emission from idling vehicles has been linked to asthma, cancer and heart disease.

‘Nit-picky’ laws

Omar Chatty, who lives in San Jose but commutes to Palo Alto five or six times a week, opposed the ordinance and the idea of the city passing “laws for every little nit-picky thing that you want (residents) to do” lest it become an “eco-socialist mini-state.”

Palo Alto High School students involved with the Sierra Club’s Climate Action Leadership Team spoke in favor of passing an anti-idling ordinance and the “domino effect” that it would have on neighboring cities considering similar measures, including Los Gatos, Los Altos and Saratoga.

Keene noted that as of July 1, Palo Alto is the first city in the country that buys all carbon-neutral electricity and natural gas by buying electricity from solar, wind, landfill gas and hydroelectricity sources and by investing in projects that remove carbon from the atmosphere by buying carbon offsets.

“With an increasing incident rate of asthma, especially among young children, I think this is an important leadership position to take,” Holman said.

DuBois agreed.

“I don’t know how you can be for idling,” DuBois quipped. “Idle minds, idle cars: none of it’s good.”