Bus drivers not obeying the three-minute idling law in New York City can be faced with fines of up to $900, said the United Motorcoach Association (UMA).
With one of the largest fines in the country, New York City has taken strong measures to enforce a three-minute idling law for buses and coaches, aggressively issuing tickets for those idling over three minutes. The Department of Environmental Protection reported that from July 1, 1999, through March 31, 2000, 81 notices of violation were issued for idling in New York City.
According to UMA, if the driver pleads guilty the fine is $700 and, if not, the fine can increase up to $900, although there are reports of the courts accepting settlements as small as $350. Enforced by both the police department and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the settlement money goes directly back to the city.
The problem stems from the time it takes for coaches to warm up, which is about 15 minutes in order for a coach to be comfortable for the passengers and driver.
“Constituents don’t want bus traffic there,” said Godfrey Lebron, chair of UMA's Legislative and Regulatory Committee. “We want to work with the city, but we need areas where our drivers can layover.”
Steve Sprague, chief operating officer of UMA, said the hefty fine is a combination of New York City’s concern for environmental quality as well as urban residents wanting to chase away as many commercial vehicles as possible.
“Our recommendation is to avoid New York, if possible, but if not, try to idle only in designated parking areas and away from curbside areas except while loading and unloading passengers,” Sprague said.
The three-minute idling law encompasses all of New York City. “Each municipality can decide its own idling law. Some are 15 minutes, some are 10 and New York City is three,” Lebron said.
Fran Brown, director of charters for Trans Classic Coach Corp. in New York City, said her charter company has not encountered any major problems and finds it relatively easy to comply with the New York City idling law.
“We do not run our engines over three minutes unless, of course, we are loading or unloading passengers. That is allowed under the law as well. The police won’t do anything about it because they realize it produces more pollution when you turn the engines on and off than it does if you take that extra minute to load people,” she said.
While other big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles don't impose idling fines, the City of Beverly Hills, Calif., does impose a fine of $255 if a motorcoach or transit bus idles for any length of time.
“They cannot idle. They have to basically stop the vehicle, turn it off, unload the passengers, and then start up the engine,” said Art Barrios, secretary of the Department of Transportation for the City of Beverly Hills.