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June 2009
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Idling: What is the real cost?

Yesterday while riding home from work I was stopped at a railway crossing for a massive freight train to pass. As the line of cars grew on either side of the train tracks I noticed one thing in common amongst all the drivers, they all left their cars running.

What about turning your car off while you’re waiting for the train to pass?

I had the opportunity to live in Switzerland for a summer and I was always amazed at how environmentally conscious the Swiss were. Get to a red light, turn your car off. Get to a rail crossing, turn your car off. No matter what the idling circumstance they always turned their car off. How come Canadian’s can’t adopt the same habits?

Congestion costs Toronto $2.2 BILLION per year

Congestion in Toronto is almost unbearable at times. It is not only the highways that are congested it is the city streets. And much of that congestion leads to idling – where you sit in your car and go no where. Unfortunately it is somewhat unreasonable to turn your car off on the highway, wait ten minutes and then drive again. The idling I’m referring to is when you’re waiting for a friend, picking something up, dropping something off, etc … or waiting for a train!

In Toronto there is a by-law that prohibits idling. If your car is sitting still for more than 3 minutes out of every 60 minutes than you could be charged with idling.

Of course there are those people that believe that idling is necessary. There are individuals who believe that you need to warm your car up for at least 10 minutes on a cold day. Modern technology and modern cars actually only need 30 seconds to warm up. Or the individuals that believe that is uses more gas when you stop and start the car. The reality is that you use more gas when you idle for more than 10 seconds. More on these myths can be found here.

In the end the message really is to turn your car off whenever you can. Perhaps in the future Toronto will have a fourth colour to the traffic lights, so we can turn our vehicles off and turn them back on when it is our time to drive again.


Comment from Adron
Time June 20, 2009 at 5:14 am

I wonder though, how much additional damage is caused from that? The greatest damage done to an image is at startup and turning the engine off. In addition it uses more fuel to start the car than to idle for some time. I wonder what the trade off point is.

I suspect the 3 minute limit is good, but I can’t help but be curious. :)

Comment from Sara
Time June 23, 2009 at 11:29 pm

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Pingback from sasha on the street » We Just Can’t Give Up Driving
Time August 24, 2009 at 4:16 pm

[…] Idle: One of things I’ve written about in the past. Idling costs cities millions of dollars per year. When you’re waiting […]