Stiffer Fines for Idle Time

The morning after the last snowstorm, if you were on W11th at 11 a.m. you'd have seen a car idling on the north side of the street, with no driver in it. And if you looked around you'd have seen a man about three car lengths away standing in front of a cafe with a coffee in his hand watching the car, who would tell you he was waiting for the ice and snow to melt off his windshield while the heat ran.

There are a number of reasons why the city would push limits on the time cars are allowed to idle in school zones, as they are now with a new law being introduced by councilman John Lui. Very few of them really have to do with children hacking up blood and lungs on the sidewalk because sombody's mom let her Range Rover idle for an extra two minutes in front of the school. The proposed legislation — limiting cars to 60 seconds of idle time in school zones — does not go far enough. Not nearly.

The first step is instituting a city-wide 60-second limit and backing it up with an educational effort, signs encouraging people to report violations to 311 attached to parking signs, and stiff penalties. This is a matter of health, both personal (child asthma rates are through the roof) and public (an Environmental Defense Fund report estimated that idling vehicles produce 130,000 tons of CO2 every year). So, with Mayor Bloomberg preparing for the apocalypse and city kids choking on fumes, tougher legislation makes sense.

The ignorance of leaving a vehicle running for no reason can't be stressed enough, but if there were a little more awareness, or the threat of repercussion, maybe it would end. And no ordinary fine would do, though maybe the fines could make up the difference for the MTA and prevent a subway fare hike. A more suitable penalty would be forcing offenders to suck on their tailpipes for the amount of time they thought they needed to leave their cars idyling. But then again, the city could really use some extra money, so maybe fines are the way to go.

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