Spacing recently received complaints of TTC vehicles idling for long periods of time in the bus loop of Wellesley station. Most irksome about the incident is that the employee inside the idling vehicle was, go figure, busy taking a nap. Besides the annoyance of watching paid public employees brazenly sleeping on the job, this incident underscores the complexities of enforcing the City’s anti-idling bylaw and the intricacies of which vehicles are excepted.
While Toronto’s 1998 anti-idling bylaw does make some exceptions for TTC vehicles, it stops far short of giving the commission a free pass. The text of the bylaw states that TTC vehicles are allowed to idle in excess of the normally allowed three minutes only while loading or unloading passengers or during “stopovers” — periods of no longer than 15 minutes which occur at transit terminals and are for the purpose of allowing adjustment to service schedules. The bylaw explicitly states that the stopover exception does not apply when “idling is substantially for the convenience of the operator of the vehicle.” Based on this, we can definitely say that the TTC employee caught sleeping at Wellesley was guilty of breaking the bylaw.
Former TTC Chair Howard Moscoe is someone who has been critical of the current state of the anti-idling rules. He notes that, within his knowledge, there has never been an idling ticket issued against a TTC bus, or a City vehicle in general, in spite of the fact that it was a prominent complaint during his time as Chair. A big reason for this could be that, currently, the idling bylaw is enforced only by Toronto’s 42 transportation officers, rather than by its 412 parking control officers. Reports suggest that, because of this, an average of only 74 idling tickets are handed out by the City every year. Moscoe also notes that in light of recent high profile expenditures on hybrid buses, a highly developed enforcement protocol towards TTC vehicles could be just as effective in improving Toronto’s air quality. This, as Moscoe notes, would be more effective than including broad exemptions for the TTC within the actual bylaw.
Whatever formal method of applying the bylaw to City vehicles is finally adopted, it remains disappointing that the City’s own employees are so brazenly defying our idling restrictions. With the TTC, this incident also raises questions about the environmental conditions within stations and enclosed bus bays, such as the one at Wellesley, where excessive idling may be particularly harmful to patron health.
Amongst Toronto’s many bylaws, idling must be one of the more difficult to enforce. But that doesn’t make it any less important, and if compliance is ever to be achieved, it will have to start with the City following its own rules.
Photo by Richard Murray