SANTA CRUZ LAW LIMITS VEHICLE IDLING with New Outreach Focus on School Zones

Did you know that a large sedan produces 0.12 pounds of carbon dioxide per minute while just idling? Our City will soon be rolling out a new anti-idling campaign to reduce such greenhouse gas emissions, plus the carbon monoxide and particulate matter in car exhaust.




Our City of Santa Cruz Ordinance No. 2015-05 restricts idling to 90 seconds citywide. Since extensive idling occurs in school zones during times of drop-off and pick-up when many parents and caretakers opt to leave the engine running while they wait for children, the City has focused on schools in its first phase of the outreach campaign.




It is estimated that within City of Santa Cruz school zones, 480 pounds of carbon dioxide per minute are emitted by those idling their car during drop-off and pick-up instead of simply shutting down their engine while parked.

Tackling excessive idling in school zones is especially important, as children breathe more quickly and are physically closer to tailpipes then adults. It is also known that pollutants from car exhaust can be especially damaging to children as their lungs are still growing and maturing, and are prone to developing respiratory conditions such as asthma.




The campaign is also concerned with dispelling idling myths. The most common myth is that re-starting a  vehicle is less efficient than simply leaving it running. For most cars, this is true for the first 10 seconds of idling, but any idling beyond this results in excess pollutant emissions and gas expenditures.




We will be installing anti-idling signs in the public right-of-way near school pick up zones at the start of the new school year in August. We have provided additional signage to schools for installation in their campus parking lots. The City has also requested that schools consider conducting outreach through their environmental clubs, in-class lessons, school newsletters and other media, to educate students and parents on the importance of curbing excessive idling.




This anti-idling campaign is the second Climate Action public education campaign spearheaded through collaboration with community partners. The first, Keep It Cool, is a business energy conservation campaign that simply asks businesses to close their doors when running heat or air conditioning to prevent wasteful energy use and save money. See this SC Waves article from 2018 on the Keep it Cool Campaign.

For more on City of Santa Cruz climate action efforts, please contact





City Beat

3 comments on “SANTA CRUZ LAW LIMITS VEHICLE IDLING with New Outreach Focus on School Zones

  1. Wow…blame the parents. Build the 3rd lane and stop the THOUSANDS of idling car on HWY1 and stop supporting drug addict camps.

  2. Sitting in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s the giant gas guzzler beside me was idling for a long time so I got this post with the ordinance and made it bigger, got out and showed it to the passenger, noticing that thede was no driver. She read it and said she had just had back surgery and could not get out to turn it off. I mimed turning it off and she said no, it was not that kind, but her husband just went over to CVS and he would be right back. I got into explaining about wasting gas, the pollution, how that’s what people do, turn on their car and begin to text, as she was doing, and the exhaust was going into my car next to her. She shrugged and repeated all, with the conclusion, that he’d be right back. It was not hot or cold to need ac or heater. Wow! Wow! Unbelievable! Is there anything more I could have done?

  3. When I left it has been at least 18 minutes and no sign of hubby!

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