Idle-free Park City
It’s as simple as turning a car key
Updated: 11/04/2009 05:56:41 PM MST
We idle at drive-through windows at banks and fast-food joints, too lazy to walk inside. Unable to master manual ice scrapers, we use our idling engines to clear our windows of ice and snow. At long red lights, we rev our engines, too impatient to even consider turning off the key. And we do this without thinking of our pocketbooks or, more importantly, our planet.
The choice is yours. You can be an American Idol, revered for reducing fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Or, you can be an American Idler, sitting in your car with the engine running, fouling the air, wasting finite resources and getting zero miles to the gallon.
Like a traffic cop at the intersection of foolishness and common sense, Park City officials are determined to steer motorists in the right direction. The City Council is considering a resolution that would designate Park City as the first "Idle Free City" in Utah. Off-highway idling would be discouraged.
It’s a strategy that makes sense for all cities, and Park City in particular. The Summit County resort town is a high-altitude training ground for world-class athletes, whose engines run best on pure air. And an outdoors tourism mecca, a place where big-city folks go to escape pollution, not breathe it.
Given the option of employing carrots or sticks, city leaders are dangling the carrots, hoping to gain voluntary compliance by educating drivers about what they, and society, stand to gain.
The average motorist idles five to 10 minutes a day, and an hour of idling, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, wastes up to 0.7 of a gallon of gasoline. At current prices, needless idling could cost a two-car family hundreds of dollars a year.
Our environment also pays a price. For every hour your engine’s not idling, you’ll keep a pound of climate-changing carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants and greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, according to the EDF.
But if that’s not enough to get residents and guests to comply, Park City could wield the big stick. After the resolution is approved, city planners will begin work on an official ordinance which could include fines and citations for violations, an increasingly common way to combat needless idling in U.S. cities large and small.
Hopefully, Park City will serve as a role model for the rest of Utah, particularly cities along the Wasatch Front, where federal sanctions loom for exceeding safe air quality guidelines. We’ve got a problem. And idling gets us nowhere.