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Rally Wednesday for Tougher Idling Regs Near Schools

Last week's Chinatown disaster has prompted a good bit of discussion about idling vehicles. As it happens, two bills are wending their way through the City Council that would tighten idling restrictions and foster improved enforcement.

A vote is expected tomorrow on Intro. 2007-631, which would reduce the maximum idling time from three minutes to one minute when the vehicle in question is "adjacent" to any public or private school. The bill, from Council Member John Liu, appears to enjoy wide support, but opposition remains. A 9:30 a.m. rally on the steps of City Hall will precede tomorrow's vote. Says Rebecca Kalin of Asthma Free School Zone:

Idling is harmful to health and environment; it's wasteful and against the law. Now, we can add "dangerous to pedestrians." The Chinatown tragedy might never have happened if the driver had simply turned the key.

A separate bill, Intro. 2008-881, by Daniel Garodnick, would empower city traffic agents to enforce idling laws through the use of their hand-held computers. As it stands, according to a press release from the council member, the Department of Environmental Protection is the "lead agency" in citing vehicles for exceeding legal idling limits. Since DEP has 38 inspectors covering the entire city, it's not surprising that very few citations are issued (536 in 2007, says Garodnick).

The council's Committee on Environmental Protection recently held a hearing on Intro 881. Again, cross-checking co-sponsors, a number of supporters of 881 have also signed onto the parking meter "grace period" bill. Let's hope they don't try to dole out more leeway for idlers too.

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