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
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
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