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Campaign to target drivers of idling cars - Globe and Mail

June 13, 2005
Jennifer Lewington
Globe and Mail

Drivers who idle their cars at schools, GO stations and other polluting "hot spots" will be the target of a week-long blitz starting today in the Toronto region.

In Toronto, six city bylaw officers will be assigned to issue tickets ($105 plus a $25 provincial surcharge) to those who leave their cars running for more than three minutes.

In Burlington, which passed an anti-idling bylaw last year that only went into force last month, three bylaw officers will issue "information" tickets to raise awareness. Fines will be levied only in extreme cases, according to a city official.

Elsewhere across the Toronto region, where several municipalities have introduced bylaws and others
plan to follow suit, the goal is to educate drivers, not fine them.

"At schools, the air pollution comes out at the level that kids are breathing it in," said Eva Ligeti, executive director of the Clean Air Partnership, a non-profit group of government, business and community groups that organized the blitz.

The second blitz in two years comes amid more frequent smog advisories -- 17 so far this year in Toronto -- issued by the Ontario Environment Ministry.

Over the past five years in Toronto, officials have ticketed 240 drivers and issued warnings to 1,000 others for idling their cars. (The bylaw does not apply below -5 C or above 27 C, so that people can still run their car to protect themselves when the weather is extremely cold or hot.)

In Burlington, bylaw officers have handed out 59 anti-idling pamphlets over the past seven months, with no one fined yet.

Later today, Oshawa city council will vote on a bylaw similar to the seven-year-old rules in Toronto.

"It used to be perfectly acceptable to spit on sidewalks and smoke in theaters," Oshawa Mayor John Gray said last week of the proposed $110 fine. "Well, the message now is idling cars in winter or in summer is simply unacceptable."

But environmental activists question the value of prohibitions that pack little enforcement punch.

"Anti-idling bylaws are important because it is about affecting mindsets," said Keith Stewart of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. "What the City of Toronto has to do is enforce their bylaw."

But local politicians in the Toronto area disagree.

"No municipality plans to go and hire an army of bylaw enforcement officers," said York Region Councillor Joyce Frustaglio of Vaughan, which introduced its own bylaw last year. "This is not supposed to be a cash grab," she said.

Ms. Ligeti of the Clean Air Partnership said that public education is only the first step. The next is to get people out of their cars, she said, urging commuters to consider carpooling and public transit.

"I am hoping in a number of years you will see that idling will be significantly reduced in the Greater Toronto Area."


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