Hearings set on excessive idling by buses, trucks
From Chicago Breaking News:
Two Chicago aldermen are demanding to know why police and other city officials largely are ignoring laws that ban excessive idling by diesel buses and trucks.
In response to a Tribune investigation, Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and Virginia Rugai (19th) announced today that they will hold hearings about the city's tepid enforcement of a state anti-idling law enacted more than four years ago, and a tougher, city-only version approved last year.
The newspaper reported last month that city officials have written only 34 tickets for excessive idling during the past four years. Chicago police have yet to write a single ticket for violating the laws, records show.
Mayor Richard Daley's administration pushed for the city's anti-idling law last year during Chicago's unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics, promising it would help clean up toxic air pollution and encourage companies to save fuel.
But on dozens of occasions in September, October and November, the Tribune observed buses and trucks idling far longer than the city's three-minute limit. Testing by the newspaper found the amount of lung- and heart-damaging soot lingering in the air next to the idling vehicles soared up to 30 times higher than normal street levels.
"Isn't it shocking that we pass ordinances and nobody enforces them, especially in light of the fact that the question of air quality is so high on the agenda of everyone?" said Burke, also noting the city's cash-strapped budget could use a boost from the ticket revenue.
So far most of the tickets have been written by one Department of Revenue parking enforcement aide in Lakeview, Lincoln Park and the Loop. The city law also authorizes the Police Department, Department of Environment and Office of Emergency Management and Communications to hand out tickets, which slap drivers with a $250 fine.
In recent years, government officials across the nation have embraced anti-idling policies to curb emissions of diesel soot that can lodge deeply in the lungs and penetrate the bloodstream. Diesel exhaust also combines with other pollutants in the air to form lung-damaging smog.
Anti-idling laws generally allow drivers to keep their engines running to operate air conditioning or heating in hot or cold weather, but otherwise require them to shut down if standing for more than three minutes.
City officials said they have spent the past year educating fleet operators about the law and training city workers to limit idling. They have posted warning signs in about a dozen spots where buses congregate, including outside the Adler Planetarium, River North theme restaurants and City Hall.