Streetfilms: Anti-Idling Laws Clear City Council

Two laws designed to decrease pollutants and other safety hazards posed by idling vehicles passed the City Council this week. As shown in this Streetfilm by Elizabeth Press, Council Member John Liu’s Intro 631 cuts down the amount of time drivers are allowed to idle near schools from three minutes to one minute. A second bill, sponsored by David Yassky, expands enforcement power by allowing agents of the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Sanitation to issue idling summonses, appearance tickets and violation notices. The bill also gives citizens the ability to report truck violations.

The Yassky bill does not supercede a third idling bill, from Daniel Garodnick, which would permit traffic agents to issue idling tickets using their hand-held computers. "The two bills in essence work in tandem," said a spokesman from Garodnick’s office, who explained that the proposal would require a rule change by the Department of Finance, which has indicated its support for the measure.

Advocates hope the new laws will not only reduce pollution, but will encourage motorists to turn their vehicles off, reducing the risk of another crash like the the one that killed two children in Chinatown.


    A meaningful and real crackdown on idling will accomplish so much of what the Mayor supposedly wanted in his grand sustainability agenda. This should have been item 1, rather than taking two years.

  • Rhywun

    Any chance of getting this to apply to the cop cars that idle *all day long* in front of my office building? (They operate a “checkpoint” for trucks passing down Broadway near Wall Street.)

  • Peter

    I hate to say it, but this looks more like feel-good lawmaking than anything that will truly be productive.

    Who is going to enforce these rules?

    Traffic agents don’t like to enforce any rules that require them to confront private citizens (and I don’t really blame them, given the flack they get from people getting parking tickets), and is the NYPD *really* going to do anything about this? C’mon.

    I used to work on 21st street between 5th & 6th ave in Manhattan, where there’s a school mid-block.

    Starting at roughly 1pm, school buses would start to show up for EOD transport. Aside from all the congestion they would create by parking (and double-parking) on a busy commercial side-street, all the drivers would sit there for hours, idling. From what I’ve seen, that’s not uncommon around most schools.

    I don’t see that changing one bit under the new rules.

  • Rhywun

    The whole “idling” thing baffles me. Is it really so freaking hard to turn a key and pump the gas pedal? Is it just the usual outrageous lack of civility in our culture? I seriously can’t think of a single compelling reason that people do this.

  • I agree about the lack of enforcement — a woeful problem with every traffic law involving cars and trucks. But having said that, why should this ordinance be restricted to school zones? Shouldn’t the citizens everywhere in this city be protected from noise and air pollution of idling vehicles?

  • jackr

    this shouldn’t just be limited to schools…it should be everywhere!

  • I think this is pretty absurd. If it’s enforced at all, they’ll be stinging private citizens in relatively noiseless small cars, to say nothing of the folks warming up their engines.

    Trucks end up covered in tickets regardless (mostly for standing in no-standing zones rather than double-parking) – tickets they don’t even have to pay, because of this:

    The limitation to school zones is mere additional absurdity. How am I, as a driver, to know which idling law applies to me? School zones aren’t exactly clearly marked.

    This looks like yet another way to drive down citizens’ respect for the law.

    I will also bet you any amount of money that circling and hunting for parking produces at least two orders of magnitude more pollution than the difference between a one-minute-idle and a three-minute-idle.

  • Peter and David_K,

    This is happily one of the few areas where there is not going to be a fatal lack of enforcement:

    Traffic Agents CAN issue idling summonses without confronting the driver. All that is required is a quick scan operation on their handheld computer.

    One of the benefits of Garodnick’s bill is that there are a lot more TEAs walking around ready to ticket than there are cops ready to issue tickets, and that’s why I think this bill will work.

    Also, if there IS a driver present, what’s wrong with the TEA NOT issuing a ticket right away, but being able to say “turn off your engine or I’ll have to ticket you?”

    That way idling can be cracked down on WITHOUT people bitching about “waaaa this is a city revenue issue waaaaaa”

    Kaja, are you really going to decide whether to idle depending on what kind of zone you’re in? How about you save yourself the headache and don’t poison MY @$#% AIR by idling, thanks very much.

  • I was under the impression that any recent model car doesn’t have to be warmed up. Am I wrong?

  • In a city like New York it should be clear that any model of car doesn’t have to be driven

  • Kaja — I’ll take the bet, provided that by “circling and hunting for parking” you mean one round of circling. We might also want to convene a small panel of experts to review my evidence — and yours, if you have some. If you agree, I’ll wager a thousand dollars.

  • No one bets again Komanoff. No one.

  • Oh snap!

  • Cap’n, you’re correct… the need to “warm up” a car engine is a popular misconception, left over from early days of auto engines. ( ) No car made in the last 25 years suffers from this problem.

    It’s not people “warming up” their cars that’s the big problem here… it’s the people sitting in their cars waiting for someone or something. (Ran into the deli, car service, picking up Junior, etc.) Mostly, these people leave their cars on to listen to the radio or to regulate temperature. Expect to see car service companies give the aircon/heat issue problems once this law begins being enforced.

  • bb

    I can only imagine what history will say?

    Americans sold their soul for convenience. Trumping and squashing any freedoms or human rights which got in its way, all the while creating genocide, pollution, and divided classes of society with segregation.

  • Bill

    I’m getting sick and tired of the anti automobile hipster types in NYC. All of them take mass transit and are jealous of those of us who can afford to own a vehicle. As a tax paying middle class NYC resident I’m sick of the assault on drivers by the Mayor and his hipster sheep. In the next election I’m voting for Bill Thompson. The hypocrite Mayor billionare will be out on his petard.

  • I’m sick of the assault on drivers by the Mayor and his hipster sheep.

    Help! I’m being assaulted by sheep!

    Thank you, “Bill,” for one of the most concise statements of the real elitist myth about transportation in New York.

    I’ve been sick and tired of the pro automobile Archie Bunker types in NYC. All of them drive and are jealous of those who haven’t tied themselves to an unsustainable transportation mode. As a tax paying middle class NYC resident I’m sick of the assault on transit riders by the Comptroller and his Archie Bunker sheep. In the next election I may not vote for Bloomberg, but I’m sure as hell not voting for that pandering politician Thompson.

  • kate m

    So much idling I see everywhere! Pointless pollution.What can we do? I don’t want to complain to the choir. I want to see enforcement. Power in numbers.Who to contact? How to make a petition, direct action,and/or publicity?

  • Kate, you could try contacting your local precinct, or a precinct you spend a lot of time in, and finding out when the local precinct community council meets. Talk to the council members and find out the best way to request increased enforcement of a particular issue.

  • New York City has been at the forefront of idling news over the past couple years. Notably (in recent news) FreshDirect– a New York City food supplier– has opted to install idle limiters on their trucking fleets.

    These idling laws, despite the ill feelings they stir amongst truckers, ease the harm we are inflicting on the environment. Many cities and states are following in New York’s footsteps. If you are interested in learning more about your local idling laws, check out the EPA’s site on idling laws. For more information on idling and idle limiting, try this blog:

  • > Kaja — I’ll take the bet, provided that by “circling and hunting for parking” you mean one round of circling.

    Why would you assume this?

    I’ve seen my own parents circle for over twenty minutes, just to save themselves a two-block walk. I believe most circlers are of the same nature, they’ll drive for half an hour if they have to, just to find a local spot. (The plural of anecdote is data, baby.)

  • david

    I can see why they are doing it, but its rong for thenm to not take into acount us truck drivers that don’t want to be in the city but get stuck ther becouse we have to take a 10 hour brake after every 11 of driving in our truck! if you think this never happens tell that to the officer that wrote me a $350.00 ticket for idling my truck for more than 3 min (10 min to be exact) in the bronx at the coop market when it was 15 degre’s out! how is that fair! it takes 45 min to warm a truck up, to the point it blows warm air! And for the record diesel burns cleaner than gas!! i have a clean air cirtified truck that is designed to put out less harmful emisions in an hour of idling then 10 cars do!

  • Kaja

    David, the idling laws don’t apply below freezing temperatures. If you were actually ticketed, just look up the cited law, note the temperature clause, and plead not guilty.

    It didn’t get down to 15 degrees in New York this year. When did this happen?

  • Anonymous

    I think the comments should be open but monitored on a regular basis.oakland airport limousine service


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