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LA Might Make It Illegal To Keep Your Engine Running While Parked

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz called parked vehicle idling "an unnecessary and inefficient habit that increases air and climate pollution, increases consumption and demand for harmful fossil fuels, and also wastes money." (Rick Bowmer/AP)
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Raise your hand if you've ever put your car in park but left the engine running while you picked up a friend, ran a quick errand or just wanted to keep that AC blowing to avoid getting baked alive. It's not uncommon, but the behavior could become illegal in Los Angeles.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz filed a motion this week asking the city's Department of Transportation, city attorney's office and other relevant departments to draft an ordinance banning drivers from idling more than 60 seconds while parked in the city. Koretz, who represents communities including Encino, Bel Air and Cheviot Hills, also asked departments to ensure that any eventual proposal would not have a negative impact on low-income residents.

Koretz also calls on LADOT to "prepare a robust marketing campaign in order to provide widespread education about the dangers of parked vehicle idling and the new regulations." The motion now goes to the City Council's transportation committee for further review.

The move comes several weeks after the American Lung Association published its 2019 State of the Air report. Surprising no one, L.A. was named the city with the worst ozone pollution, a top (what's the opposite of an honor?) distinction its received 19 years out the report's 20-year history.

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Koretz wrote that while CO2 emissions exacerbated by L.A.'s trademark traffic is one thing, "parked vehicle idling is an unnecessary and inefficient habit that increases air and climate pollution, increases consumption and demand for harmful fossil fuels, and also wastes money."

Nationwide, idling personal vehicles waste roughly 3 billion gallons of fuel and generate about 30 million tons of CO2 every year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Several other states have similar laws on the books, and Koretz cited New York City in his motion, where there's basically a bounty system to encourage citizens to report idling vehicles. Vigilant residents who document illegal idling and file a complaint receive 25% of the $350 fine imposed on drivers found guilty. Could the tattletale tactic be coming to L.A.?

We asked Koretz's office about that, as well as how school zones and city vehicles might be affected, but a district spokesperson said it was too early to say. The spokesperson did say a big part of the issue is public education and helping drivers become self aware of "mindless idling."

In a separate statement, the councilman pointed the finger at the Trump administration, saying the president "continues his reckless dereliction of duty by actively attacking the Clean Air Act and other health protections."

"By putting a halt to the bad habit of parked vehicle idling, we can counter Trump's insanity, reduce air pollution and improve public health on our way toward our zero-emission climate goals," Koretz said.

The city and the state already have some regulations in place around commercial vehicle and school bus idling. Though just last week, Councilman José Huizar introduced a motion to target large commercial trucks more specifically, saying construction hauling vehicles are causing "public safety problems" and taking up valuable parking in Eagle Rock.