City council unanimously supported a resolution to move ahead with an anti-idling campaign through to 2016 at this week’s meeting.
Administration was also directed to continue with research on other “types of strategies and tools” that could be used to cut idling in the City, with that information reported on at the end of 2015.
Council agreed that bypassing a bylaw for now was the most effective way to go as idling is linked to concerns around air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, urban noise and increased energy/fuel consumption.
City administration and the Environmental Advisory Committee recommended the Idle Free public education campaign in the 2009-2010 to help reduce vehicle idling in Red Deer.
Nancy Hackett, the City’s Environmental Initiatives supervisor, pointed out that the number of businesses or institutions that have signed on to the idle free campaign has gone from five in 2012 to nine in 2013.
“We started with zero in 2010, so that’s a good achievement.”
The number of schools has gone from 11 in 2012 to 18 in 2013 to 28 this year in all three local school divisions, she said.
She said the number of signs posted on City-owned buildings is now 72 from 19 in 2012, plus there is a growing body of promotional material available to the public as well.
Hackett said studies show that local air quality in 2013 was shown to be generally good, and, “We are mostly meeting our Environmental Master Plan targets except for particulate matter.”
In 2012, the particulate matter was poor/not in the right direction to help meet local targets, and in 2013 readings improved slightly but still don’t meet the Canada Wide Standard.
One of the largest causes of that, she added, is engines.
“We can do things to drive less – we can car pool, we can use transit, we can have good vehicle maintenance – all things that the City encourages. But one of the easiest and most cost-effective things you can do is to stop unnecessary idling.”
Hackett said community awareness about the idling free program stands at 75%, as shown in the 2013 Customer Satisfaction Survey for the Environmental Services Department.
“Which is a statistically significant survey. It was very encouraging to see that result.”
And of that number, more than half reported participating in the program as well.
More than half of those questioned also said they would be supportive of a bylaw prohibiting idling.
Hackett said council could opt to stay the course; that is continue with the education program as is with further reporting down the road.
They could consider a ban or bylaw at this point or they could choose to forego a bylaw now and continue to work at getting the message across to the community while researching what other tools could be effective at curing idling across the community.
Councillor Lawrence Lee said that it was necessary to de-mystify the misconceptions around idling vehicles, one being that it’s a must to warm up vehicles in the winter.
“It’s actually better to drive in your vehicle at low speeds and warm it up that way – it’s healthier for the environment and better for the vehicle.
“If you are going to idle for more than one minute, it’s better just to turn it off.”
He also emphasized how idling contributes to the particulate matter that affects air quality in the region. “I support the motion because it does give direction for our administration to look at other alternatives and strategies, and the educational component in order to improve the idle-free campaign.”
Councillor Paul Harris said it’s also important to talk about the work the City is doing including putting more electric car infrastructure in the City and constructing traffic circles which keep traffic flowing and cut idling.
There have also been discussions on speed control.
“I think it’s important to consider for our neighbourhoods. We know that consistent speed throughout the community reduces emissions.”
Councillor Lynne Mulder said she agreed that continual education was the key.
“I speak in support of looking at other ideas and not going for a bylaw at this time.”