Home > News Room > TEA in the News > Drive-through ban eyed for city vehicles

Drive-through ban eyed for city vehicles

Going through the drive-through for that morning cup of coffee could become a banned ritual for City of Toronto employees.

February 15, 2008
Vanessa Lu
Dana Flavelle
Toronto Star

"Idling a vehicle when you're not driving wastes fuel. It wastes money. It's unnecessary carbon emissions," said Sarah Gingrich, a business analyst with fleet services. "We want to explore whether (a ban) is possible, is it beneficial, and how would we go about it."

The idea is one of 38 recommendations in a "green fleet" plan endorsed by the city management committee yesterday that will go to city council next month.

Last June, the city enacted a policy requiring employees driving city vehicles to turn off the engine when stopped for more than 10 seconds.

The city estimates that if all the drivers of its 4,700 vehicles followed the no-drive-through rule, emissions would be reduced by 2,100 tonnes a year, the equivalent of taking 486 passenger vehicles off the road. (The fleet does not include police or other emergency vehicles.)

Gingrich said the city has no data on how much fuel has been saved by the no-idling rule so far, but it has received fewer complaints from the public about idling city vehicles.

Brian Cochrane, president of CUPE Local 416, called a ban on drive-through use "a little bizarre" aid said he wondered how efficient it would be to require staff to go into a restaurant to eat.

"It will take more time out of the work day. I don't see it as a particularly productive situation," Cochrane said, adding that many of the city's trucks are too big to even go through a drive-through.

He said he would be prepared to consider the idea as long as management would not penalize staffers over lost time.

More skepticism might come from the drive-through industry. Tim Hortons commissioned a study last fall that found drive-through restaurants are better environmentally than those without them.

"It's surprising," admitted Tim's spokesperson Nick Javor, of the study done by RWDI Consultants in Guelph. The findings have been presented to a city committee in London, Ont., which was considering a ban on new drive-throughs.

He said two major factors contribute to the results: People who plan to park first have to drive around looking for a spot. Then, restarting the engine minutes later produces a puff of emissions.

"That all contributes 20 per cent more smog pollutants and 60 per cent more greenhouse gases than a restaurant without a drive-through," he contended.

The study, which is being peer-reviewed and will be published this spring, was based on a combination of computer modelling and actual traffic counts, Javor said. Customers were timed for how long they spent on the property, both looking for a spot or at the window.

At rush hour it can take four or five minutes of idling to get through the drive-through, but picking up a quick coffee at a suburban location can take as little as 20 or 30 seconds.

Nationally, about half of Tim Horton's business is done at the drive-through. At McDonalds, it's more than 60 per cent, according to spokesperson Ron Christianson, who added that drive-throughs "are pretty important to some customer segments"like parents of young children and people who want to stay in the car when it's dark or stormy.

Katrina Miller, of Toronto Environmental Alliance, declined to comment on the specific recommendation in Toronto. But she said that generally, "Drive-throughs have no place in a city with 30 to 40 smog days a year."

She noted that her group favours a city-wide policy banning new drive-through operations and restrictions on existing ones.

Drive-through ban eyed for city vehicles.pdf20.22 KB