Anti-Idling Effort Shifts Into Gear

Allan Appel PhotoWho knew that New Haven drivers could be ticketed if their engines are unnecessarily idling for more than three minutes!

But they rarely if ever are. That may change, if the city’s environmental watchdog agency has its way.

The Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) took the first, albeit slow and idling steps, to draft language to recommend to the city in order to create a local ordinance to implement a state environmental code that allows the ticketing.

Members took that step at last week’s monthly EAC meeting.

For every ten minutes you let your engine idle, you are pouring one pound of harmful greenhouse-gas-producing carbon dioxide into city’s already not-so healthy-to-breathe air, advocates say.

The EAC initiative, along with others such as an evolving plastic bag ban, are emerging out of the group’s efforts to accelerate implementation of the city’s Climate and Sustainability Framework, which the Board of Alders passed this February.  The goal of the framework is to reduce New Haven’s carbon emissions 55 percent by 2030.

At the meeting at City Hall last Wednesday night, EAC member Chris Schweitzer introduced the results of volunteer research on the subject, which included trying to pow-wow with officials in Norwalk, the only municipality in the state with such a local state-implementing ordinance. He said Norwalk officials had not gotten back to him.

However, Schweitzer reported that Transportation, Traffic & Parking (TTP) Director Doug Hausladen was good-to-go with this language:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The New Haven Board of Aldermen, based on the above information [CT Section 22a-174-18, Connecticut state regulations for the abatement of air pollution] and by virtue of this resolution, hereby expresses its full support for the proposed anti-idling ordinance which includes:
• Enforcement of the ordinance with ticketing and a fine;
• Enforcement of ordinance from already existing departments, including Traffic transportation and Parking and the Police Department
• Establishment of an appropriate education program and resources for enforcers;
• Guidelines for implementation of the ordinance which includes the specific exceptions to the ordinance and issuance of warnings;
• Creation of a public education campaign, which could include signage, video PSAs and posters, etc to inform public of ordinance and the benefits of reducing idling.

Not quite so fast, said mayoral Legislative Assistant and Policy Analyst Esther Armmand.

“What did the police say?” she queried Schweitzer. Given the manpower shortage and overtime spending, are the police ready, willing, and able to do the enforcement?

Schweitzer said he had gotten the thumbs up from TTP, whose staff would also likely be involved with future enforcement.

“Unless you have something specific on enforcement, the alders won’t pass it,” Armmand advised. “You need a fiscal impact statement. Without that, it’s soft.”

“I suspect the police will not view this as a high priority,” said EAC Vice Chair Kevin McCarthy. “We may have more luck with TTP.”

“You need to tease things out before you move to legislation,” given the precarious state of city finances, Armmand said.

“I take Esther’s point,” said City Engineer Giovanni Zinn, a regular attendee at EAC meetings. He also called attention to the potentially plus side of such an ordinance if it can be tweaked so it either doesn’t cost money on balance — or perhaps even produces new city dollars through fines. “The revenue would go to the city,” unlike with traffic tickets, Zinn noted. The idling “is already illegal; it’s a question of enforcement.”

Armmand added another angle: “The mayor and the alders don’t want to be surprised. Since the EAC is working on behalf of the city, I would advise a conversation” witih city departments before introducing a resolution.

“I’ve heard from the administration that they like this [the proposed ordinance]. We need to find a way to the next step,” counseled EAC chair Laura Cahn.

“Here’s some inside baseball,” said Zinn. He suggested that in the weeks to come there could be “internal conversations” that would clarify the enforcement and fiscal impact issues so that the process could be accelerated.

Hearing that, Cahn ruled that the commission would put off a vote for a month.

The state ordinance spotlights school buses as violators. It also lists exemptions that cover police and other emergency vehicles, where the turning off of engines, Zinn said, could result in the malfunction of other necessary equipment.

Plastic Bag Ban Takes The Next Step

A little further ahead in the process of EAC initiatives becoming city law is a plastic bag ban. At the EAC’s October meeting Armand carried the mayor’s hearty endorsement of goal of a proposed city ordinance to reduce the common use of plastic single-use carry-out bags. The non-biodegradable bags pollute the ocean and kill whales and dolphins, jam recycling machinery, deplete the ozone layer when incinerated, and clog landfills.

The sustainability framework calls for the city to tax plastic bags and straws and water bottles in keeping with zero waste design guidelines for urban centers. Armmand had previously said it is unclear yet if the mayor wants to emphasize fines, participation of local businesses, or public education, or all three in the language of the ordinance percolating at the EAC.

At Wednesday night’s meeting she advanced the process by submitting a “draft comprehensive statement for a model plastic bag ordinance”:

The City of New Haven Ordinance Relating to the proposed initiative on disposable plastic bags at check-out that will bring community together to increase sustainable materials management by reducing plastic bag use at retail check-out in order to reduce waste management and mitigation, protect our environment, beautify our parks and neighborhoods, create jobs and cut costs while increasing public information on recycling, reuse, and source reduction.

There was no specific action taken by the committee on Armmand’s draft, just a distribution to keep members updated as she advances the ordinance.

Armmand said she thinks the work is moving apace so that a draft will be submitted to the alders by the end of the year.

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posted by: Bill Saunders on November 13, 2018  1:37pm


posted by: IloveMYcity203 on November 13, 2018  1:59pm

hahahahahahaha this is the dumbest thing that I’ve heard of. The City of New Haven wants to ticket people for a car that has been idling for more than 10 minutes. Somebody PLEASE tell me that I read this wrong, or misunderstood the story. PLEASE! hahaha

Do you realize how many people warm up their car when it’s 30 degrees and below? It takes 10 plus minutes to get the windows defrosted and oil circulating through the engine and all parts after starting the vehicle etc. Get a grip on reality!!!

New Haven is so strapped for cash, it’s not even funny. Here’s some advice. How about the City manage the money that is allotted to them each year and stop wasting it.

posted by: SpecialK on November 13, 2018  2:51pm

So, the enforcement officer will have to first find an idling car then sit and watch that idling car for a full 10 minutes before they can issue a ticket? Sounds like a cost efficient program.

posted by: HewNaven on November 13, 2018  3:06pm

Warming Up Your Car in the Cold Just Harms the Engine
The long-held notion that you should let your car idle in the cold is only true for carbureted engines.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 13, 2018  3:11pm

There are always people who want to increase the misery index - and fine and fee us to death with arbitrary rules and subjective judgments. Just what we need from the parking nazis….who already harass drivers to the brink of going postal.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 13, 2018  3:12pm

Here’s a concept: Leave us alone. Don’t dig deeper into our lives, our idling habits or anything. If you want a better idling policy - make it so you can drive through lights without sitting there for five minutes. Make people walk in the crosswalks. Give us a freaking break.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 13, 2018  4:46pm

IloveMycity203, the state regulation, which would serve as the basis for the ordinance, has several exceptions. These include idling to run the heater to protect the driver/passengers’ health and safety. The idling limit also does not apply when it 20 degrees or colder.

SpecialK, the idling limit is three, not ten, minutes (see the link in the story to the state’s environmental code). It takes TTP about that long to write up a parking ticket, since they take a photo of the vehicle.

Noteworthy, excessive idling contributes to the city’s mediocre air quality, which in turn contributes to its high rate of childhood asthma. While I share Chris Schweitzer’s concern about the climate impact of idling, there is also a public health rationale for the proposed ordinance.

posted by: Westville voter on November 13, 2018  5:06pm

Most of my idling time is spent at badly timed traffic signals. Perhaps fixing this would have a greater impact, while also alleviating irritation rather than finding new ways to irritate.

posted by: hionamt on November 13, 2018  6:11pm

I second Westville voter , The time wasted at traffic light stop every block is outrageous. Just check out the Townsend Ave Main St and Forbes Ave Ferry St intersection for example . Seems the city needs to address this before ticketing idling cars.

posted by: robn on November 13, 2018  6:16pm

You could just ask people to stop doing it if they’re near of your house. When the weather isn’t bad I do and they’re usually cool about it.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on November 13, 2018  6:22pm

New car technology exists to automatically turn off and on a car engine when a vehicle is not in motion.

Through legislation and public interest, Europe is actively embracing this technology, and it is heading towards becoming the norm. America? Not so much.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 13, 2018  7:22pm

Kevin: How do you know there’s excessive idling? Do you have data that indicates New Haven visitors and taxpayers idle too much? Three minutes? three minutes is a long time? Still, you’re going to have a meter maid click his/her watch…count to 180…and I’ll say, I didn’t park for 180 seconds, it was 160. And saying that in general idling cars or trucks negatively impact the air quality is a generalized statement. The air quality is poorer near the 34 corridor and other environs near the highway because of all the truck traffic, the delivery vehicles and other heavy equipment and transportation like buses and trains. Cow flatulence also hurts air quality. Ban idling cows.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 13, 2018  7:27pm

Let’s also ban leaf blowers and lawn mowers - oh, and don’t forget chain saws. Let’s also regulate how big an engine you have in your car because the bigger the more pollutants. And we can find people who take off too fast from a red light. Burns gas, creates pollution.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 13, 2018  8:19pm

Westville voter, that’s not idling for the purposes of the law.  The three-minute limit does not apply when the vehicle “is forced to remain motionless because of traffic conditions” (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22a- 174-18).

I’m all in favor of synchronizing the lights, which would have environmental as well as traffic benefits. But that would cost a fair bit of money.

posted by: robn on November 13, 2018  9:29pm

I can’t decide which is more funny..,.when drivers (who benefit from more cyclists who aren’t clogging the road with more cars) get mad at the existence of cyclists…,or when drivers get mad that you don’t want them to pollute the air while wasting their own money with unneccesary warmups or idling.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 14, 2018  9:45am

Noteworthy, it appears that several people on this thread don’t realize that the three-minute limit has been the law for ten years. In determining that idling for more than this period was excessive, the legislature made a number of common sense exceptions to deal with weather and other factors beyond the driver’s control. And the limit applies to trucks as well as cars.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 14, 2018  10:43am

For every ten minutes you let your engine idle, you are pouring one pound of harmful greenhouse-gas-producing carbon dioxide into city’s already not-so healthy-to-breathe air, advocates say.

So will you fine people who use smartphones?

How smartphones are heating up the planet

Having conducted a meticulous and fairly exhaustive inventory of the contribution of ICT —including devices like PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones and tablets — and infrastructure like data centres and communication networks, we found that the relative contribution of ICT to the total global footprint is expected to grow from about one per cent in 2007 to 3.5 per cent by 2020 and reaching 14 per cent by 2040.

How Much Do Your Text Messages Contribute To Global Warming?

posted by: Somewhere In New Haven on November 14, 2018  12:58pm

isn’t this why we have Emission Testing to determine if the vehicle is releasing harmful greenhouse-gas-producing carbon dioxide?  All we do .... PAY, PAY, PAY.  Plastic Bag Ban?  What’s next ....  oh, my bag ......  this:
TAX plastic bags and straws and water bottles (PAY, PAY, PAY).  When will thing’s BENEFIT people in the HIGHER UP CATAGORY (SALARY)?    Always seems to hit us in the pocket.  WTF

posted by: WMACHQ on November 14, 2018  1:09pm

Many Board of Ed food delivery trucks idle for 20 minutes or more while getting coffee in the morning. Is that an emergency exemption?

posted by: JCFremont on November 14, 2018  2:47pm

You want to help New Haven air please allow “Right Turn on Red” at the light on State and Edwards Streets. Good God it seems at Edwards the light is Red for 3 minutes and the green is 25 seconds. We lose 7 seconds of that because the lead cars driver often dozes off. Even during the decade long State Street Bridge closure and Corsair hadn’t opened there was almost no traffic on that part of State. Is this light synced to the Edward, Prospect light which is also very long but I understand the “unique” traffic pattern at that corner?