News

City Council backs ban on car idling

Members support creating new law to discourage drivers from running their motors in place

An effort in Palo Alto to pass a law barring cars from idling moved ahead on Monday night, when the City Council fully endorsed the new ordinance.

By an 8-0 vote, with City Councilman Adrian Fine absent, the council directed staff to come up with an ordinance that would make it illegal for cars to run their motors while standing still for more than two or three minutes. The new law would be based on similar ordinances in Salt Lake City, Utah and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Once drafted, the ordinance would go to the council's Policy and Services Committee for review before the full council adopts it.

The drive to pass an anti-idling ordinance was sparked by a campaign conducted by youth members of the local Sierra Club Chapter and Shelly Gordon Gray, a Sierra Club board member who also sits on the city's Human Relations Commission. Earlier this year, students attended a council meeting to show an educational video they made of cars idling in front of Hoover Elementary School. They have also been talking to administrators and teachers at local schools and distributing cards for students to take home and have their parents sign, pledging that they won't idle outside schools.

In response, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and council members Karen Holman, Eric Filseth and Tom DuBois co-authored a memo urging a new anti-idling ordinance. The law, they acknowledged, would prioritize education over enforcement. The primary costs, according to the memo, would be posting signs at idle-rich places such as schools, truck delivery stops and employee-bus stops. Even independent of enforcement, "just signs and education are likely to have some impact," the memo states.

"I think there's very little dependency on enforcement," said Filseth, who calculated that the ordinance would reduce emissions by roughly the same amount as taking between 120 and 240 cars off the road per year. "It's just getting people to think differently -- like separating our food scraps. We sort of internalized that."

Kniss, a former Santa Clara County supervisor, said that the county already has an anti-idling law that pertains to trucks, buses and other large vehicles. Palo Alto's new ordinance would apply a similar approach to cars and other smaller vehicles.

"Most people think if you turn your car off and turn it on again, you are wasting gas," Kniss said. "Any number of studies show this is actually not the case."

Tanli Su and Rachel Loewy, members of Sierra Club's youth division, told the council that they've reached out to councils in Los Altos, Saratoga and Los Gatos. In all three cases, officials expressed interest in prohibiting idling.

"We believe if Palo Alto takes the lead and passes this ordinance, it will have a domino effect and other cities will get on board," Loewy told the council.

Council members agreed that, if nothing else, the new ordinance will raise awareness of the issue. Holman said since she has learned more about the issue, she has observed more people idling for long periods of time. Three weeks ago, she observed someone sleeping in their vehicle while the motor was on, Holman said.

"With the increased incident rate around asthma and among young children, I think this is an important leadership position to take and an important leadership action to take," Holman said.

Andy Zeng, vice chair of the youth division of Sierra Club's climate action team, said idling laws is one area in which Palo Alto has fallen behind. He endorsed a two-step approach -- with an education campaign followed by enforcement.

The memo acknowledges that the anti-idling ordinance would make exceptions for emergency responders heading to calls, Public Works vehicles working on projects and individuals who need to keep the engine running because of health conditions. It argues that the new ordinance would make a "modest but measurable" contribution toward the city's "80 by 30" goal, which calls for reducing emissions by 80 percent by the year 2030.

Not everyone at Monday's meeting was convinced that the new ordinance is a good idea. Omar Chatty, vice president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, asked the council to respect the intelligence of the city's residents, who are well-educated and who "don't need laws for every nit-picky thing."

"Let's not turn Palo Alto anymore into an over-regulated eco-socialist mini-state," Chatty said.

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Comments

44 people like this
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2017 at 1:18 pm

So who enforces this? The police? I think they have bettter things to do.


16 people like this
Posted by Adjust traffic lights
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 29, 2017 at 2:17 pm

My car shuts off when it stops, even for one minute. However, if the stop is more than two minutes, the engine cannot be reactivated without shifting into park and hitting the ignition switch. That's a process that takes long enough that cars behind me often miss the light, and get angry.

I understand that all high-end German cars have this feature now. With all the high-end cars in Palo Alto, the traffic signals will need a longer green cycle before turning red-- or there will be many angry billionaires and multi-millionaires!


17 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Come on, this idling law does not apply to cars that are stopped at stop lights! It only applies to cars that are parked in legal parking spaces. There is no need to idle when you are parked. If you want more ventilation, then open your windows.

I wonder if this law is aimed at the many private security guards in this city who sit in their cars all day and often idle the engines for hours at a time to power their laptops and cell phones? Haven't you folks heard of battery packs?


51 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2017 at 3:52 pm

I'm not saying that this discussion is not worth having and in days where the temps are comfortable it is different from days in the 90s or days in the 30s.

However, I really wish the CC could stop wasting time on feel good measures and get some serious work done on improving traffic, parking, infrastructure, at the same rate of knots it does the feel good stuff.


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2017 at 4:01 pm

"So who enforces this? The police? I think they have bettter things to do."

Just turn that motor off, Jake.


15 people like this
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2017 at 8:07 pm

So who enforces this?

God


23 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 30, 2017 at 7:58 am

How is this going to be enforced!? I'm not going tell someone to turn off their vehicle and I'm not calling 911. The police have enough to deal with.


9 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2017 at 8:58 am

Nearby residents have been complaining about cars idling in front of the Baptist church on California Ave. Maybe this is a compromise to get them to turn off their engines, instead of kicking the music teachers out of the church.


36 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2017 at 10:50 am

Annette is a registered user.

Good grief! It's kind of pathetic that we need yet another law to get us to be good citizens. How about skipping the law-making and launching a simple consciousness-raising anti-idling campaign?

I promise to not idle whenever I have control over that decision. You in?


46 people like this
Posted by Jay
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2017 at 11:07 am

Could anyone on the Palo Alto City Council create a less useful idea than this? Come on! This is so utterly ridiculous, unrealistic, unenforceable, and overreaching it stupifies any rational mind.

Born and raised here, all I can say is that when I see or hear of things such as this in my home city, I just cringe at how the one mono-idealistic tone resounds from our ' ever wise and intelligent council', and none of simplifying life and laws, reducing the enviro-overeach humor (what is going to be next that the police enforcing the idle laws must have batons required to being organically sourced eco-recycled-bamboo?).

Sound common sense with the added grace of wisdom without enviro dogma will guide us to a sensible future that will not make the police distracted from real crimes and laws being broken, not fantasmical.


42 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2017 at 11:47 am

So, on my morning walk today I passed an unoccupied City of Palo Alto vehicle with its engine idling. How about this Council Members? Take a year to see if you can get your own vehicles under control, then come back to us and propose this ridiculous measure again.

And I will say yet again that there are people with disabilities who need to run their heat or AC even when their car is parked.

Go do real work, Council Members. That's what you were elected to do, not carry water for the Sierra Club.


20 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2017 at 11:48 am

Thanks for the belly laugh, Jay. The organically sourced bamboo baton had me really going!!! And it's so Palo Alto.


10 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and council members Karen Holman, Eric Filseth and Tom DuBois your co-authoring a memo urging a new anti-idling ordinance is exactly the wrong message to send to the youth members of the local Sierra Club Chapter. They had the matter in hand with their own outreach efforts. They would be better served by the City allocating funding to help them expand on their campaign and take on even more responsibilities than by saying "OK, you can go home now", the adults will take over from here.


21 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Will this law be enforced by the same city employees that enforce the gas-powered leaf blower ban?


20 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Wow, what a bunch of sourpusses. I doubt the police are going to be called often to complain about an idling car. However, it's possible people who don't think twice about letting their car run while waiting for their children to exit school might realize that they're causing someone else to breathe the exhaust fumes. Just knowing there's an ordinance could cause people to turn the motor off. In my view it couldn't hurt.


10 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2017 at 12:53 pm

@resident

When I addressed this issue with Karen Holman earlier and mentioned the leaf blowers, she assured me: "I did forget to mention that the leaf blower ordinance is being enforced and (forget the number but many dozens at least) were issued and I do notice many more battery operated blowers and far fewer gas blowers".

Perhaps this is true in upscale North PA, but in the downmarket southern half of our city there are many gas blowers in use and only three electric ones that I've ever observed during my morning walks. None of those are suitable and/or powerful enough for professional use.


19 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2017 at 1:08 pm

@Novelera

That's what education campaigns are for. That's what the City Council should have encouraged our kids to plan and execute. That would have been a valuable learning experience and a life skill for our children. No, gotta make an unenforceable law to criminalize what is probably a lapse of attention on the part of most people. The kids lose an opportunity for growth, the police are given yet another menial task to ignore, People with disabilities have to explain their behavior to busybodies, the council pats themselves on the back pretending they did something meaningful and the Sierra Club gets a checkbox checked. This is a bad ordinance.


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Silly..silly..play time at CC. But they need to have some fun don't they? I can't really get upset over this because there will never be any enforcement. The feel good folks, trying to save our planet, should be able to have their say and think it is meaningful. I don't want to spoil their fun.


4 people like this
Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 30, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Palo Alto residents and business breathe and eat from Amazon online shopping and delivery networks - all these vehicles are spewing toxins for hours at a time.


7 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2017 at 3:30 pm

@resident....I wouldn't be surprised if City Council authorized 2 or 3 new enforcement officers at 70K per year or more with benefits, the way they waste money!


3 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 30, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Thank you Palo Alto City Council. The needless air pollution (and noise pollution) from people who sit in their cars, mesmerized with who knows what on their phones, is absurd. Even if we can't ticket every idiot who parks their car and idles their motor, we are resetting expectations. Wake up -- we only have one planet. Start taking care of it.

And regarding the Sierra Club kids -- there is no reason they can't continue to urge people to stop idling their cars for no reason.


12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2017 at 3:58 pm

"... Filseth, who calculated that the ordinance would reduce emissions by roughly the same amount as taking between 120 and 240 cars off the road per year."

C'mon. Filseth ought to know that's only half the analysis. Now calculate the emissions from our heavy big-engined police vehicles attributable to enforcing the ban.


4 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2017 at 5:00 pm

@Rose,

There will be zero tickets issued. You expect a cop to sit somewhere idling -their- engine for 10 minutes while they observe some poor sucker idling their engine for the time required for enforcement? Then they will issue a warning and file the information away in case some -other- cop has 10 minutes to waste and happens to catch the same idling scofflaw. Keep in mind Palo Alto dropped the last two traffic enforcement positions in 2016 after reducing that team from seven positions to just those two in 2012. Perhaps we can request Mutual Aid from Menlo Park. Against this backdrop CC is proposing to add another pointless ordinance whose failure to be enforced will create additional disrespect for Law Enforcement. Since this proposed ordinance makes absolutely zero sense, and has poor optics, I'd like to know whose back is being scratched here.


10 people like this
Posted by Let's enforce our exisiting traffic law - like speed limits
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 30, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Let's enforce our exisiting traffic law - like speed limits is a registered user.

I would much prefer we enforce our current traffic laws, like speeding, stopping at stop signs and stop lights, no turns at certain intersections, etc. This sounds like a feel-good sound bite that would be better served by educating the public.


3 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 30, 2017 at 5:40 pm

This is a good ordinance, motor vehicles are a major cause of global warming and idling them amounts to senseless destruction of the environment. Good for Palo Alto.


11 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2017 at 5:48 pm

"So who enforces this?"

Big Brother...and please remember to comply with everything that you're instructed to via newspeech as directed by the Ministry of Truth. There are consequences for not complying with those who are "more equal" than others.


12 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2017 at 5:49 pm

So...are the officers who are forced to enforce this latest hysteria, err, requirement required to turn off their vehicles too?


10 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2017 at 6:53 pm

@Juan

It is not a good ordinance. It is unenforcable. It is an unnecessary drain on Police time. It is small change among addressable pollution sources. I want our City Council to focus on doing their jobs, not providing PR for the Sierra Club. Palo Alto has reall issues. Fix -them- and, when you are done, you can have dessert, err, idling ordinances.


12 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 30, 2017 at 11:35 pm

What a crock of s#!* the peoples republic of Shallow Alto strikes again.

So lets start with the city's fleet of service vehicles and then close down every drive-thru

That parliament of puppets need be replaced with folks more grounded and in tune with the real issues...


18 people like this
Posted by Andy
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 31, 2017 at 12:17 am

How about you figure out how to put Caltrain into a trench so that thousands of cars do not spend extra time idling at all those traffic lights every day.


8 people like this
Posted by Rock
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 31, 2017 at 6:12 am

@Andy

Bingo. An idea with real merit. Grade separate Caltrain.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2017 at 9:21 am

With temps expected to hit 100F over the next couple of days, expect to see many cars idling to keep occupants cool.


8 people like this
Posted by Edgarpoet
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Aug 31, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Wow, passing city ordinances about idling your motor! You can legislate Human Behavior, but can you enforce it? Robbery and murder has been against the law for Centuries, yet people still perpetrate these crimes!
The truth is, nothing will change the rude selfish people from their
bad behavior. So passing yet another ordinance does NOT solve the problem,
but only makes or society more complicated. where is the wisdom on our city council?


6 people like this
Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 31, 2017 at 2:39 pm

As one of the contributors to this initiative, I can tell you that nobody anticipates a lot of diversion of police and/or code enforcement to scouring the streets for idling-violators. Instead, our assumption is that most of the impact, and there’s other-cities evidence that there will be one, will come from the education and notification that’s part of this - basically just getting folks’ attention. So the question, “is an Ordinance really the best way to do this?” isn’t an unreasonable one. There are pro’s and cons, as previous posters have discussed. In the event it’s the option we judged best, but views will legitimately vary.

I do want to comment on the suggestion that this is an empty PC gesture from the nanny state. In fact it’s the opposite. The City’s adopted 80-30 plan calls for us to eliminate a little over 100,000 tons/yr of transportation emissions by 2030. Not everybody agreed with 80-30, but we ratified it as city policy, and that means we’re supposed to deliver on it. I personally think that finding those 100,000 tons is going to be harder than many people think; I suspect we’ve actually already found most of the easiest savings, and much of the rest will come in 1,000- or 2,000-ton increments, like this one does. So this seems to me like one of those places where we can’t really have it both ways: if you buy into to 80-30, then you commit yourself to actions like this one. A well-managed city makes commitments carefully, and then executes on them. So I think people shouldn’t see this as a symbolic gesture; rather, as a nuts-and-bolts step towards delivering on the 80-30 commitment we made over a year ago.


2 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 31, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Eric: how is performance on the 80 - 30 plan measured?


5 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 31, 2017 at 4:55 pm

@Eric Filseth

So how do you propose to measure the efficacy of this ordinance? If you can't measure it, it's pointless. Don't you agree?

Your first mistake was to buy into 80-30 which apparently "forces" you to adopt un-quantifiable "solutions" in an attempt to meet a goal that is unrealistic to begin with. Your job is to admit that 80-30 was probably badly chosen in the first place and then come up with ways to fix that initial mistake. If you are in a hole, stop digging!

And, Eric, there were no "pros" given in this thread, just some wishful thinking that perhaps people will idle less if there is an unenforced ordinance. [Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Focus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2017 at 5:44 pm


Meanwhile, aggressive and/or distracted drivers are causing collisions and injuring - and sometimes killing - innocent people DAILY on our local streets. I see wanton red light runners every single day. I rarely, if ever, see any kind of traffic enforcement. Embarcadero and El Camino, Page Mill and El Camino, Arastradero and El Camino, again -- every single day with red light runners either speeding through the intersection and/or making a left turn on the red, and not once have I witnessed a violator get pulled over. I rarely, if ever, see any traffic enforcement along that stretch of El Camino Real.

Imho, there should be at least some focus and enforcement of the laws we currently in place that can save lives NOW, like citing people who are texting/using their phones (in hand) while driving, speeders, red light runners, and other reckless/distracted drivers. Imho, the reason people continue these dangerous habits is because they know the chances of them being cited for a violation is about, slim & none.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 31, 2017 at 6:57 pm

"The City’s adopted 80-30 plan calls for us to eliminatea a little over 100,000 tons/yr of transportation emissions by 2030."

OK, I get the 30 part. What's the 80 thing?


3 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2017 at 11:04 pm

Good luck enforcing this type of ordinance when the weather is hot or cold.


11 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 1, 2017 at 8:17 am

@Focus

Yes, we need enforcement for those red-light runners, most definitely. However some of the blame for -that- also accrues to our City Council allowing overbuilding to outstrip the carrying capacity of our roads. Once a driver has been waiting for several light cycles on a road constrained by "dieting", the temptation to squeeze an extra car or two through a new red must be overpowering. Then, when the first scofflaw sets an example red light running becomes an accepted community norm. Add in new ordinances that are expected to be ignored by the PD and you enshrine disrespect for the rule of law. Why is this so hard to see by our elected representatives?


7 people like this
Posted by Focus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2017 at 9:19 am

@Rick,

Generally speaking, the red light runners I am referring to are not the ones "squeezing in" - which to me implies a slow controlled pace and results in potentially blocking the intersection - which is just as illegal, but not nearly as dangerous as the red light runners I am referring to...which are the ones who sail through intersections at a high rate of speed after all the traffic has cleared and just a hair ahead of oncoming cars traveling through the green light. It's those red light runners who I see daily and who create extremely hazardous conditions and put lives in danger. Regardless, I don't care how frustrated by driving conditions one may be, it absolutely does not give someone the right to wantonly ignore the law and place other lives in danger simply because s/he is in a rush or tired of the traffic or annoyed at city council for allowing over building.

Complain to city council for the over building and the strain that has placed on our roads, definitely...but DO NOT use that as an excuse to willfully violate laws and put other people in harms way. And, PAPD, start enforcing the traffic laws!




1 person likes this
Posted by Rala Lou
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2017 at 12:17 pm

There are good and bad reasons to idle a car. When I drove across the country mid summer by myself with three cats - I had to to idle my car at every rest stop to keep the air conditioner running. (Locked the car with a second key.) It was the only safe thing to do.

In 95 degree heat like we will have this weekend internal car temperature can rise 70 degrees in 10 minutes even with windows cracked. Web Link (In the video, it only took a couple minutes for the car's temperature to go from 70 to over 100 degrees)

However in Palo Alto only place I "idle" is while wating for the Page Mill light to change. I only drive once a month and bike everywhere. I actually do care about the environment even if I "selfishly" idled on my trip across country.

This ordinence is seriously misguided. When it is appropriate to idle is a matter of judgement and should not be a matter of law. For people displaying poor judgement, school educational campaigns and other targeted education is definitely the more sensible approach.


9 people like this
Posted by Idler
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I'm sitting in my car idling right now waiting to pick up the kids. Car thermometer says 105F. If idling was illegal, I'd be driving in circles, which is worse for the environment, traffic, noise, pedestrians, and cyclists. So good luck with the ordinance.


3 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 1, 2017 at 5:11 pm

@Focus

Be assured I am -not- excusing those drivers who violate traffic laws. Lock Them Up!, oh, wait. :). I'm saying the City Council has create an environment that invites this kind of behavior. Litter invites more litter. It doesn't excuse littering, but if we are paying our City Council to keep the streets litter free, and they don't, they are not doing their jobs. The same is true of traffic congestion. CC has this perverse idea that if they make it uncomfortable to drive, something magic will happen and everyone will take public transit.


4 people like this
Posted by Focus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 10:20 am

Unles the city council has given some sort of mandate to the police department that they NOT enforce traffic violations then one would think it is encumbent on the PAPD to at least attempt to enforce traffic violations...or make some sort of showing that demonstrates to the public that traffic violations are being enforced/ticketed.

If PAPD is unwilling/unable to effectively enforce the most egregious and dangerous locations along El Camino Real - where violations occur multiple times daily - then perhaps it means there needs to be cameras set up like Menlo Park has done...photo tickets for red light runners. Those kinds of set ups seem to curb the repeat/wanton offenders pretty effectively.

One of the reasons I feel so strongly about dangerous drivers because someone I am close to was at complete stop at a red light (behind several vehicles) and was struck by someone, who for some reason drove straight into the rear of my friends vehicle - at full speed - causing injuries that my friend is still trying to recover from over a year later, as well as total loss of the vehicle. I have about zero sympathy for Inattentive or otherwise dangerous drivers. The driver in this instance WAS cited at the scene. Yay. However, the citation does nothing as far as reversing the damage he caused.

City council should be focusing on saving lives NOW and and doing a better job of enforcing the laws we have in place that are there to help protect and save lives daily, instead of trying to impose a feel good, ridiculously unenforceable ordinance. You want something to feel good about? How about getting the dangerous drivers off the road...that would be a great place to start.







2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 10:24 am

I love all the metaphors. I agree with an ordinance. Difficult to enforce, but at least some will follow it: delivery trucks, buses, signs at drive-throughs to remind people.

When we lived in Minnesota, the yellow buses would idle for 30 min. prior to the end of school! So by the time the children went to the bus, they would breathe all the fumes. Thus, I drove my kids, a 15 min. drive or 45 minutes by bus.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2017 at 10:26 am

@Focus: It's high time they intstall red-light cameras.


4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 2, 2017 at 11:17 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Instead of red-light cameras, fix the traffic light timing. Given how very short the amber light is and the frequent delayed starts of the cars in front of you, it's practically impossible to avoid "running a red light" at times unless you stop on green lights because you THINK it's time for the light to change. That would be both dangerous and irritating to the folks behind you.

What I'm trying to say is that "red-light runners" may already be in the middle of the intersection when the light turns red even though they proceeded on green.


Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 3, 2017 at 7:05 am

it is legal to enter an ntersection on a yellow.


2 people like this
Posted by We need enforcement
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 3, 2017 at 8:14 pm

While it's not illegal to enter the intersection on a yellow, drivers are supposed to stop when the light turns yellow. There are blatant red light runners, those who actually run the light after it turns red, probably non-resident commuters. This needs to be stopped.


4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2017 at 9:39 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Yes, it's illegal to enter on a yellow but not on a green, followed by a very short yellow. That's why I'm saying the traffic light timing should be changed.


3 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2017 at 10:06 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Online Name - it is not illegal to enter on yellow. This is the only thing the vehicle code says about it:

21452. (a) A driver facing a steady circular yellow or yellow arrow
signal is, by that signal, warned that the related green movement is
ending or that a red indication will be shown immediately
thereafter.

It is not "running a red light" when the light turns red while crossing, it is only running a red light if you enter the intersection after the light has turned red. The yellow light durations seem perfectly acceptable to me, but the minimum timings are defined by California law, so if you think they are short, check and complain. The numbers are in the Traffic Manual of the Department of Transportation.

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2017 at 8:34 am

When I was being taught to drive my professional instructor told me that yellow (amber) light means stop unless unsafe to do so. I think that explains it well.


4 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2017 at 9:48 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Resident - It explains a defensive driving technique, not the law. Unfortunately, in today's Palo Alto, stopping on yellow is often going to be unsafe, because you're likely to get rear ended.

Not the law, but advice from driver's handbook:
"A yellow traffic signal light means “CAUTION.” The red traffic signal light is about to appear. When you see the yellow traffic signal light, stop if you can do so safely. If you cannot stop safely, cross the intersection
cautiously."

The law:
"21452. (a) A driver facing a steady circular yellow or yellow arrow
signal is, by that signal, warned that the related green movement is
ending or that a red indication will be shown immediately
thereafter.
"



4 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 4, 2017 at 1:09 pm

One of the benefits of a forum like this is that we can use the ensuing discussion to inform our voting choices in the next election.. I know this article has. Thank you, Palo Alto Online.


4 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 4, 2017 at 9:01 pm

Huh. Just watched a TED Talk that claimed that the 15 largest container ships (together) emit the same amount of pollution as -every- automobile on the planet.

That, in turn, reminded me that the WW II scrap metal "support the war" drives produced zero value to the war effort, but kept the populace from becoming restless.

And, gosh, both of those things reminded me of the Palo Alto anti-idling ordnance.


1 person likes this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2017 at 3:34 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

I must say, ALL internal combustion engines discharge noxious pollutants into the atmosphere, idling in parking places, or at stoplights, or in gridlock!
So I applaud Anna Eshoo's support of a bill in Congress. Here's what I wrote (you are welcome to copy/paste into your own message)
"Dear Congresswoman Eshoo,
I read about your vote on The SELF DRIVE Act. "also included my language to require a study of the environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles as well as the intersection between autonomous and electric vehicles. The AV revolution is happening on top of the ongoing electrification revolution, and our Congressional District is leading the nation in this effort. We have to double-down in our support of the growing AV fleets with electric vehicle charging infrastructure. "
I'd like to bring your attention to recent actions by the Palo Alto City Council regarding "An effort in Palo Alto to pass a law barring cars from idling moved ahead on Monday night, when the City Council fully endorsed the new ordinance." [Web Link]
I have found that most of my idling takes place while stopped for stoplights, especially on El Camino Real, Embarcadero, Oregon Expy. and Middlefield. I should point out that electric autonomous vehicles would virtually eliminate idling and spewing toxic and polluting gases and vapors.
Thus I applaud you vote for the "study of the environmental impacts", and hope you will give emphasis on the idling problem, and its cure by electric autonomous vehicles.
Thanks,
Stan & Kiyomi"
(from her email newsletter:

Voted on H.R. 3388 – the SELF DRIVE Act
Voted: YES
This week the House unanimously passed legislation which will establish a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles. The legislation creates a clear path for the safe testing, development and deployment of autonomous vehicles in the U.S. and focuses on four key areas: consumer protection, fostering innovation, increasing mobility and promoting research and development.

The SELF DRIVE Act also included my language to require a study of the environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles as well as the intersection between autonomous and electric vehicles. The AV revolution is happening on top of the ongoing electrification revolution, and our Congressional District is leading the nation in this effort. We have to double-down in our support of the growing AV fleets with electric vehicle charging infrastructure."


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Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 10, 2017 at 7:55 am

@stanhutchings

I applaud your post! But have to note that diluting your otherwise excellent suggestion with the poorly thought out and unenforceable Palo Alto anti- idling ordinance does Anna Eshoo's proposal a disservice.

Advancements in internal combustion engines is well on the way to solving/reduscing idling emissions. Next time you are at a truck stop note that many of the big rigs are now " certified clean idle" as another data point.


5 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2017 at 9:54 am

And how much extra pollution is generated by additional travel time caused by the Charleston/Arastradero "road diet"?


4 people like this
Posted by Onlinr Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 11, 2017 at 10:42 am

How much extra pollution will be generated when the city removes 85 parking spaces at Walter Hays/ the Community Center to make room for the expanded Children's Zoo? We're already jammed with parents circling endlessly trying to find drop-off pick-up parking.

Note that the city has scheduled a hearing about this for 8:30 AM on Thursday, Sept. 21st. 8:30 in the MORNING is exactly when the parents are circling, the teachers and administrators due to lose their parking are working and commuters are idling and spewing exhaust.

Can't / won't make hearing? Contact Any French, Chief Planning Official, amy.french@cityofpaloalto.org / 650 329-2336/


8 people like this
Posted by idle away
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2017 at 5:33 pm

"The City’s adopted 80-30 plan calls for us to eliminate a little over 100,000 tons/yr of transportation emissions by 2030."

The City of Palo Alto created one of the biggest idling situation in their road diet called Arastradero/Charleston corridor.
This reduction has taken a drive from Terman Middle School to Foothill that used to take minutes to at least 10-15 minutes of idling through three changes of traffic lights at 9:00 am. Imagine the hours of idling during peak school drop-offs or business rush hour.

If the City really cared and wants to eliminate a bunch of transportation emissions then give back the lanes on this major commute route. And release the pain of idling.


Like this comment
Posted by idle away
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Anyone know the status of this ordinance?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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