Posted by Elizabeth Hopkins
Vehicle owners in Saratoga Springs can no longer let their car idle for longer than five minutes at a time, according to a recent ordinance passed by the Saratoga Springs City Council, entitled "Vehicle and Traffic Idling of Engines."
City Council approved the regulation on Feb. 19 with the aid of Skidmore College's Cool Cities Working Group, a team of students that works in coalition with Sierra Club's Cool Cities Program to combat global warming in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Similar idling ordinances have been approved in major cities around the country, including Denver, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Park City, and New York City.
Cool Cities began working toward reducing engine idling in Saratoga Springs two years ago, when students first proposed the idea to City Council. With the aid of County Supervisor and mentor Joanne Yepsen, the group embarked on a yearlong process of drafting the idling ordinance. In their research for the proposal, they examined idling regulations of nearby cities in New York State, including Ithaca. They then submitted the plan to Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathiesen and Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety Eileen Finneran.
Stephanie Seidmon '13, a member of Cool Cities, says that the group met success in the collaboration. "Cool Cities has a really good working relationship with the city," she said. In 2009, Mayor Scott Johnson agreed to work with Cool Cities on a climate change commitment. Since then, the students have helped City Council conduct a greenhouse gas inventory. "We see them as a resource and they see us as a resource," Seidmon says. "It's a mutual relationship."
The ordinance has also found local support from doctors, who recognize the health hazards of substances emitted by idling engines. Carbon dioxide and fine particulate matter, such as sulfur oxide, sulfur nitrous oxide, and volatile organic compounds are known to be carcinogenic and contribute substantially to global warming and ground-level ozone. Reducing idling in the city will improve air quality and reduce Saratoga's emissions. The idling ordinance also helps to dispel the myth that leaving a vehicle running is good for the engine.
Following the ordinance, Cool Cities plans to embark on an educational campaign in the community. "We hope to work with local businesses to get the word out so that everyone understands what it means to idle and the negative implications of doing so," explains Seidmon. In addition to the outreach campaign, the group will begin the process of developing a transportation plan, in which they will work on grant proposals for hybrid vehicles in Saratoga Springs.
Saratoga Springs has demonstrated immense dedication to environmental campaigns in past years. Community members have become increasingly involved in initiatives like Bikatoga, Safe Routes to School, Sustainable Saratoga, and the Saratoga Farmer's Market.
"There's always more to be done," Seidmon says. "But in the past five years, I've really seen Saratoga show its commitment to climate change." The recent ordinance demonstrates that the city is ready to take more steps toward environmental conservation.