Just Say NO to School Bus Idling

BY ON August 25, 2015

Cartoon with children walking through pollution from idling buses
I don’t want to be thinking about school, but the calendar is telling me I have to. I’m a summer girl. And I have been loving this summer with my two little girls. Beyond the dreaded return of routine, responsibility, lunch making, homework nagging, committees, and eventually snow (noooooo!), back-to-school means more driving. As a native New Yorker, I’m a terrible driver. Also, I hate driving. Really truly.

While I’m remarkably adept at avoiding driving, as a mom I have to do some. Recently I have developed a new road rage I didn’t used to have B.K. (before kids). As in: I want to maim people who idle — especially at school pick up and drop off. And I’m a pacifist!

Have these people never heard of no-idle campaigns? Are they not aware that idling cars equal air pollution? Why would anyone willingly pollute her or his own kids? A wee newsflash for idlers from the Environmental Protection Agency’s own “Idle Free School Tool Kit”:

“Idling vehicles contribute to air pollution and emit air toxins, which are pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children. Children’s lungs are still developing, and when they are exposed to elevated levels of these pollutants, children have an increased risk of developing asthma, respiratory problems and other adverse health effects. Limiting a vehicle’s idling time can dramatically reduce these pollutants and children’s exposure to them.”

Got it? Turn the frigging cars off, people. For the love of kids’ lungs! Once you’ve developed a student-policed, school-sanctioned plan for family cars at pickup using the EPA’s flyers and brochures — already written and ready to download, what is anyone waiting for? — it’s time to address school buses.

The EPA has you covered there, too, with a tidy, user-friendly website filled with information on how and why to ban idling for buses, including overly nice ways of enlisting rather than, um, maiming bus drivers who idle. Bus exhaust is similar to car exhaust in that it pollutes and is bad for kids’ health. Unique to most buses? Diesel. Its particulate pollution enters schools when doors and/or windows open. The EPA says diesel exhaust is a likely human carcinogen. It’s no picnic for the environment, either. A motivating point for cash-strapped school districts everywhere: idling buses causes engine wear and waste a lot of gas. Stop the madness.

Some school buses are now using propane, which is considered cleaner burning than diesel. The New York Times reports that 19 of the top 25 school bus markets have propane-fueled vehicles in their fleets, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Miami. There are other alternative fuel fleet vehicles on the market, too. Of course cleanliness all depends on where that propane is coming from and how it was extracted from the earth, but that’s a discussion for another post.

Whatever’s fueling the bus, it’s time wake up your inner activist to prod your fellow parents and powers that be at school towards school bus idling reduction technologies. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, you can tackle the delivery trucks that come to school to deliver food or whatever. No idling for them either! Zero tolerance policy!

Ok, rant over.

And with that, fellow parents, I wish us all luck with re-entry. May yours be smooth and idle-free.


TOPICS: Air Pollution, Cars and Trucks, Children's Health, Schools