Minneapolis limits vehicle idling to improve air quality

The Minneapolis City Council and Mayor R.T. Rybak have approved new limits on vehicle idling that aim to reduce air pollution in Minneapolis. The new ordinance, which was passed June 6, limits most vehicle idling to three minutes, except in traffic.

Reducing vehicle idling in Minneapolis translates into less air pollution, protecting the public health and the environment and saving money in fuel. Vehicle motors release particulate matter, dirt, nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air. These chemicals are linked to increased rates of cancer, heart and lung disease and asthma and are the major source of human-caused global warming. Children are especially vulnerable to vehicle air pollution because their lungs are still developing, and they inhale more pounds of pollution per pound of body weight than adults do.

For the driver, it is money saved. On average a car will burn more than half a gallon of fuel for every hour spent idling. In general, 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel then restarting the car. Although the new ordinance does allow for longer idling periods when the temperature drops below zero, warming up a car’s engine in winter needs no more than 30 seconds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Engines generally pollute more when cold, and driving a vehicle cuts warm-up time in half. Idling a cold engine actually pollutes more than driving it does, and idling is harder on the engine.

An existing ordinance already applies to large diesel trucks and buses in Minneapolis, which in general limits idling of those vehicles to five minutes.

Published Jun. 10, 2008