The next time you run into the store for a quick purchase, be sure to shut your car off. Idling your vehicle in Saratoga is now illegal.
City Council Tuesday night added a new section to the City Code, entitled ‘Vehicle and Traffic Idling of Engines.’ The measure was introduced by Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen. “The idling ordinance is an ordinance to discourage people from letting their cars run while in park over long periods of time. It limits the amount of time that people are allowed to do so.”
The idea for the ordinance came from a group of students at Skidmore College. They are a part of the Cool Cities Working Group, which in turn is part of the Cool Cities Campaign, a Sierra Club effort aimed at reducing global warming.
Charlotte Levy is a member of the group. “Idling contains fine particulate matter which is hazardous to our lungs and contributes to respiratory problems for children with asthma, the elderly; young children’s developing lungs can be harmed by it,” she says. “Exhaust also contains volatile organic compounds which have been shown to be carcinogenic; nitrous and sulfur oxides which produce acid rain, ground level ozone and smog; and all of these contribute to global warming and poor health.”
The ordinance does have a couple of exceptions. Mayor Scott Johnson pointed out that it only applies to vehicles in public places, “so it’s not in your own backyard, for example. So in case people are concerned about warming their car up in the morning, that doesn’t really address that situation, it’s for public places.”
And Mathiesen says there are also exceptions for times of extreme weather, or for people who need to keep their vehicles at a comfortable temperature for infants or the elderly. “But it provides a tool so that if people are abusing the use of their automobile and emitting excessive carbon and other gases into the atmosphere, the police can go and order that the car be turned off, and they can issue a ticket for violation of this ordinance.”
Levy says the group started working on the idea of the ordinance a couple of years ago, and they gained a lot of information from inviting the community to comment during a public hearing. “Then we did a lot of research looking at what other cities had done that were in our region and similar climate zones.” The final language for the ordinance was developed from all that input.
As for the experience, Levy says group members are really happy to be working together. “I think every year we make a little bit more impact with the city, have more direct conversations about what our goals are and how we think we can help Saratoga. So it’s really exciting for us to feel like a part of the Saratoga Springs community and not just like students who make comments in class but don’t really contribute anything.”
Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said he was glad to see the students getting involved with the city. “I want to commend the Skidmore students that brought it to the city council’s attention,” he said. “I’m in favor of anything that enhances the quality of life in the city of Saratoga Springs, so thanks for bringing it to our attention.”
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