This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Stop your engines for blue sky's sake.
That is the environmental mandate from Mayor Ralph Becker, who wants Salt Lake City drivers to cease idling when parked in front of schools, homes or other "hot zones."
Becker's proposed citywide ordinance the first of its kind in Utah would bar idling for longer than two minutes. It would carve out cops, battery-charged hybrids, refrigerated trucks and situations in which defrosters, heaters, air conditioners or other equipment are needed for safety or health.
But for motorists of regular vehicles, the fines are steep. First-time offenders would get a warning. If you're caught again idling within 24 months of the first offense, expect to pay $210. A third offense and beyond within 24 months of the first would cost $410.
Becker has posted the proposal for public input at slcgov.com/opencityhall. After six weeks, tweaks may be made before the suggested ordinance goes to the City Council, likely this winter.
"Anti-idling city codes are in place across America, yet here in Salt Lake City we have the worst air quality in the country," Becker said. "I am asking residents to provide feedback to improve the ordinance as it is currently proposed and, in turn, support it as law."
Terms for the idling crackdown are modeled after scores of similar city laws nationwide and throughout Canada. For now, the planned restrictions do not apply to cars on driveways, though city officials are exploring whether to include them.
"We certainly regulate a lot of things on private property," says Councilman Soren Simonsen, applauding Becker for the overall idea. "I don't think it's a legal question; it's just how much of a chunk do we want to bite off."
Simonsen prefers a comprehensive idling ban that covers public and private property. "Anything that will help with our air-quality problem. If we chip away at it a little bit at a time, eventually all these measures are going to amount to something substantial."
Becker spokeswoman Lisa Harrison Smith says complaints have come regarding driveway idling. But the mayor, she says, is reviewing whether to stretch the proposed law that far. "Right now, it's still a question mark."
Similar idling laws focus on so-called hot zones that include schools, airports and drive-throughs.
"We feel confident that we've built in exemptions that are sensible, but we want to make sure," says Smith, adding the fine amounts and number of warnings could be adjusted. "Part of this process is to vet it publicly. We just want to know how the public feels. Also, that it's sensible."
Enforcement would not fall on the city's already stretched police force. Instead, parking patrol, under the city's Civil Enforcement Division, would be responsible for issuing citations.
So, if the ordinance passes, will City Hall have to send out a new fleet of white Jeeps on the hunt for dawdling exhaust? Simonsen says that's not realistic.
"We certainly don't have the budget right now to put more enforcement out unless we anticipate a lot of money through these idling fines," he says. "But I don't anticipate that raising more than money for just one or two more staff [for increased parking patrol]."
More than 50 percent of the state's air pollution is a result of mobile sources, according to the proposal. It also notes car engines consume more than a gallon of fuel for each hour they idle. And it cites the U.S. Department of Energy's claim that three billion gallons of fuel are wasted every year on idling engines.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon has no plans to pursue a similar anti-idling ordinance in the unincorporated county.
"The best thing we can do at this point is make people aware of the benefits of not idling," says Corroon, who oversees more than 168,000 residents within unincorporated communities such as Magna, Kearns and Millcreek.
Like Becker, Corroon has issued an executive order to employees to avoid vehicle idling. But Corroon believes a public-awareness campaign rather than a tough-to-enforce ordinance is the most productive way to solve the county's idling problems on a broader scale.
Two years ago, Corroon and Becker launched the Idle-Free Utah Campaign. On Thursday, the mayors visited sixth-graders at Morningside Elementary to declare September as Idle-Free Awareness Month.
Earlier this year, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, successfully sponsored a statewide anti-idling resolution. But Becker's move goes further. It is the only idling measure with civil penalties that can cost residents hundreds of dollars in fines.
Tribune reporter Jeremiah Stettler contributed to this story.
About proposal on anti-idling
• Drivers idling longer than two minutes on public property would be fined.
• "Vehicle" means any self-propelled vehicle that is required to be registered.
• Vehicles stopped at a traffic signal or control device would be exempt.
• Private driveways would not be part of proposed ban for now.
• Police cars, hybrids, construction trucks and delivery vehicles would be exempt, as would be safety situations requiring heat or air conditioning.
• First offense would be a warning only. Fine for second offense, within 24 months, would be $210. Third offense within 24 months would be $410.
• Penalties would be reduced by $110 if paid within 10 days, by $70 if paid within 20 days and $40 if paid within 30 days.
• To comment on the proposal, go to slcgov.com/opencityhall.
Source: Salt Lake City