New York City environmentalists aren’t too happy with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. CNN reports that they want him to turn up the pressure on the NYPD to further enforce the city’s anti-idling law that went into effect way back in 2009.
The 2009 amendment changed New York City’s original anti-idling law of no-more than 3 minutes of idling anywhere, to 1 minute of idling in a school zone, and 3 minutes everywhere else. The New York law was changed because environmental studies were showing an increased rate of asthma in the City’s school children, due to buses and cars sitting idle while waiting for their children to get out of school.
The problem environmentalists are having with the law that they fought so hard for is the lack of enforcement. According to CNN, New York issues about 10 million tickets per year, and only 2,989 were issued for idling.
“The [NYPD’s Traffic Enforcement Agents] have had authority to give idling tickets since September 2009, and yet they have only given, on average, one ticket per agent per year,” said Environmental Defense Fund lawyer Isabelle Silverman to CNN, “Consistent and rigorous idling enforcement is the only way to let drivers know that illegal idling is no longer tolerated for health reasons in NYC.”
It isn’t that easy though. “We’d like to enforce it more,” said Bloomberg at a December press conference, “Keep in mind, enforcement costs money; the people that enforce have plenty of other things to do.”
Another issue is that the anti-idling law faces is that idling may just be a habit for some New Yorkers, and as the NYPD realized in the late-90s under the Giuliani Administration when it was told to crackdown on jaywalking, sometimes giving ‘bogus’ tickets just aren’t worth the hassle.
Even so, New York’s anti-idling legislation isn’t exactly unique. Both Philadelphia, Pa. and Salt Lake City, Utah allow up to 2 minutes of idling anywhere, while the state of Hawaii forbids idling outright with few exceptions.
New York’s anti-idling laws also don’t differ much from international standards. Hong Kong passed legislation last year giving drivers a 3 minute window to shut their engines down. The United Kingdom has similar legislation, and in our brief search, the strictest anti-idling law we found was Toronto, Ontario’s 1 minute limit in place throughout the city.
Anti-idling enforcement isn’t likely to change much. Even with a few new PSA fliers on Subways and buses, old habits die hard. And besides, as Bloomberg said himself, “The police department’s first job is going to be worrying about more serious things.”