Feb 042004
Authors: Holly Stollsteimer

Turning off your car for even 10 seconds while stopped can help

the environment. Fort Collins has decided to promote this action

with a new experiment.

The air quality advisory board and air quality citizen focus

groups decided to recommend that citizens turn off their cars while

waiting for trains to pass.

Lucinda Smith, senior environmental planner for Fort Collins,

said the city has placed six signs at the train tracks on

Horsetooth and McClelland streets. These signs urge citizens to

turn off their engines while waiting for a train to pass.

The city approved the one intersection as a “pilot” to determine

whether or not the suggestions to citizens would work.

“There’s no law, there’s no requirement,” Smith said. “We’re

offering a suggestion to citizens, and if they want to do it that’s


According to Smith, Fort Collins citizens saw a need to help

reduce pollution. The city’s air quality program tries to promote

citizens to help air quality.

“We’re just giving them ideas,” Smith said. “However, this idea

really came from the citizens.”

The advisory board proposed the idea about four years ago, Smith

said. The two focus groups both mentioned the idea last fall as

well, and the plan was put into effect.

Smith said a preliminary survey was conducted to determine

whether or not people had already begun to turn off their engines

at railroads. The results showed one percent of drivers surveyed

turned off their car when waiting for a train.

Last week, an Internet survey was conducted on the Fort Collins

Government Web site, asking people whether they turned off their

engines, put their cars in park or put their foot on the break. Of

the 300 people who answered the survey, 20 percent turn off their

engines, 50 percent put their cars in park and 30 percent placed

their foot on the break.

“In a few months, we’ll do the exact same kind of survey,” Smith

said. “I’m curious to see if people will embrace this idea.”

Smith said if 30 percent of citizens waiting for trains turned

off their engines, it would eliminate two to three tons of

pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, each year.

The air quality has not been checked since the start of the

experiment, according to Smith, because “you wouldn’t necessarily

see a change there yet.”

There are two ambient air monitors in Fort Collins. One is on

South College Avenue, on Target’s property. The other is near Mason

and Laurel streets.

Smith said she determines the decline of pollutants in the air

by how many grams of pollutant did not come out of a tailpipe,

based on how many people turned off their engines.

There are other things citizens can do to help the air quality

as well.

According to Smith, 10 to 20 minutes of idling a car when

getting ready to go to work is not only burning gas but also does

not actually warm your car faster. This is due to the need for oil


“Don’t idle the car, just turn it on and drive slowly and it’ll

warm faster,” she said.

Smith said billboards are also going to be placed near the

railroad tracks as well, and will be in place in about a month.

While members of air quality groups are hopeful to see a rise in

turning off cars, some citizens are not convinced the plan is a

good idea.

Wayne Kennedy, junior history major, said he questions the

effectiveness of the signs.

“It could help, but I’m not sure if enough people will do it,”

said Kennedy. “It also takes more gas to restart you car.”

Hannah Welch, junior speech communications major, agreed with

Kennedy, saying she can’t see it making a substantial


“This issue isn’t something I’ve ever felt strongly about. I’ve

never considered something like that,” Welch said. “I just don’t

know if it’s worth it. The trains don’t take that long to go


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