On August 17 Boise joined a number of key cities that are embracing idling reduction programs. In districts across downtown, the city has posted metal signs that say “Turn your key / be idle free boise.org,” urging residents to switch off their vehicles when parked. The sign sports a logo and a QR code that links to the website.
“Our goal is to educate residents on the effects of idling,” said spokesman for the mayor Adam Park.
Citing research from Argonne National Laboratory, the city claims that choosing to switch off the engine instead of idling for five minutes a day can save a user $30 a year in gasoline. But it’s more than just fuel savings, they argue. The carbon emissions from that five minutes of idling negatively impacts the environment—particularly in our inversion-prone Treasure Valley.
“How much that will affect air quality, we’re not really sure yet,” said Park.
“What we have done here at the City of Boise is place the signs on the loading zone areas of downtown,” said Beth Baird, director of air quality for the city’s Department of Public Works. “That puts it at about just over 50 signs, I would say."
“The primary cost of the program was the cost of the signs themselves,” says Park. “We had a budget of $7,500 for the project. We think that the benefit that it could potentially generate far and away from that small amount of funding with air quality ... is worth that small investment.”
In September and October 2010, Boise piloted a study that gave a resounding 75 percent approval of the proposed program. There were already a smattering of idle reduction signs in the cell phone waiting area at the Boise airport, but they won’t be replaced by the new signs, according to Baird.
The city notes that switching off the engine does no more damage to the car's functionality than letting it run and claims that it uses more fuel to let it sit running than to turn it off and back on again, even if only for a few minutes.
In conjunction with the signs, the city has lined up partners of the initiative that support an idle-free mentality. So far, their partners include United Water, Allied Waste, Ada County Highway District and a handful of others.
“We signed on because we’ve done some analysis of our own fleet in an attempt to reduce idling,” said Mark Snyder of United Water.
Using GPS technology, United Water has kept close tabs on the usage of their vehicles.
“We’re able to monitor how each vehicle is used, and we have been able to reduce the amount of fuel we’ve been able to consume,” he claimed—all through the magic of just shutting the engine off. He hopes the signs will help educate clientele as well.
“We have a lot of customers that may come by our office and may run into pay a bill. We’d like to encourage them to not participate in that behavior.” That behavior, he clarified, being idling—he still wants them to pay their bills.
“We plan, after about six months, to do a survey and kind of regroup and see how much of an impact this has had on people” said Baird.