Limit on running vehicles nothing but idle gossip

Basalt has a “two-minute idling” ordinance in its downtown. I just called the police there, and the lady who answered believes it is a $19 fine. So is this something Durango should consider doing? – Sue

What a perfect time to consider this question. It’s campaign season, and you know what that means.

The, crackpots, zealots, militants, malcontents, wackadoodles and nutballs are extremely agitated. According to them, civilization will end if their candidate doesn’t win or their pet ballot issue doesn’t pass.

This goes for the right and the left, by the way.

So, just for fun, let’s provoke the unstable masses and throw it out there. Should Durango take inspiration from Basalt and limit vehicle idling to 120 seconds?

First, a little background.

Basalt, like Durango, is filled with progressive folks who want to do their part to cut greenhouse gases and improve air quality.

So in 2003, Basalt passed a law prohibiting stopped vehicles from keeping their engines on for more than 10 minutes, said Basalt’s town clerk, Pam Schilling.

In 2008, the ordinance was amended to two minutes.

The town has posted a controversial sign advising drivers, “but I’m not sure people are fully aware,” Pam admitted, adding that enforcement is frequently done by “citizen reminders.”

One person’s “progressive citizen reminder” is another’s sanctimonious tree-hugging buttinsky.

Basalt isn’t the only Colorado town with an idling limit. Aspen, Denver and Mountain Village allow for no longer than five minutes. In Winter Park, it’s 15.

In Telluride, 30 seconds is all you get and the driver has to be inside the vehicle; however, during frigid weather, a Telluride car can legally warm up for three minutes.

No doubt that Telluride car is a late-model Saab or Volvo with preachy bumper stickers and dog hair all over the front seat.

That’s pretty much like many a Durango car, except the Telluride car is paid for by a trust fund.

To learn more about idling limits, visit Enginesoff.org, the website of Engines Off! Colorado, a collaborative effort among federal, state and local governments to improve regional air quality.

The group makes a strong case for not letting your car or truck engine run while stationary (but not at red lights, obviously).

Ford Motor Co. recommends turning the engine off, even for stops of 30 seconds, to save fuel, money and air quality.

Wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add only $10 per year to the cost of driving, while avoiding five minutes of idling each day can save up to $115 every year in wasted gas.

Idling creates foul air because the catalytic converter is not effective at reducing exhaust pollution until it is sufficiently hot – generally only after driving a few minutes.

So it’s a perfect law for Durango to adopt. After all, this green town wants to ban plastic bags and lawn chemicals. Why not ban idling vehicles?

Not on Ron LeBlanc’s watch. Our city manager has experience with this situation in his previous stint in Ketchum, Idaho.

“Idling limits were considered unenforceable, and it didn’t reflect community priorities,” he said.

“Imagine, waiting in line at the McDonald’s drive-through. Busted!” he said. “Is idling the most important thing for Durango? This needs to be a personal choice.”

Then Ron lightened up. “I suppose if an idle law were enacted, there should be exemptions for rafting buses that burn French fry oil,” he said.

“And don’t forget that white Zombie Response car you see in town,” Ron deadpanned.

“Emergency vehicles are usually exempt from idling limits, and we need to be prepared for any contingencies including a zombie infiltration. That car needs to be running at all times!”

Absolutely. And if you listen to current shrill political rhetoric, an undead apocalypse will surely come Nov. 7, the day after the voters speak.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you clean out your garage this weekend to create room for your car so you don’t have to warm it up every morning this winter.

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