Last year New York City passed an absurd bounty system on idling trucks and buses. Under this law citizens are encouraged to record three minutes of video of a truck or bus idling near a school and four minutes elsewhere, the bounty hunter then sends the video to the Department of Environmental Protection. If the information leads to a fine, the bounty hunter receives 25 percent of it. Already the City has paid out $175,000 in bounties with thousands of cases still pending. To ramp up this program the City has partnered with 80s rocker Billy Idol (eye roll at the creativity) on a marketing campaign.
Lets rundown why this entire system is completely asinine:
- The less available the parking the more likely the need to idle the engine: Over the last few years the city has aggressively cut down on legal parking by reallocating space for dedicated bike and bus lanes. More nefarious developments though are taking away the ability to double park, refusing to enforce commercial loading zones, and renegotiating the stipulated fine program.
- Legitimate reasons to idle an engine: Operating the lift gate, trucks with refrigerator units, and buses loading passengers are just a few.
- Unequal protection under the law: This bounty system is specifically targeted against commercial vehicles. Passenger cars, cabs, and for hire vehicles are exempt. When will the war on commerce end?!
- Setting a terrible precedent: New York City has a rather robust law enforcement arm, which is only growing due to cameras and hyper specific task forces. Creating a system where citizens profit at the expense of fellow citizens and businesses is a dark road (we can play the bad pun game too), especially as actual crime in the city skyrockets.
- The same old asthma nonsense: Today’s trucks run much cleaner due to strict emission requirements that went into effect in 2007. New diesel truck engines produce 98% fewer particulates and nitrogen oxides emissions than pre-1990 models. Sulfur emissions from diesel engines have also been reduced by 97% since 1999 (as per ATRI). Besides, if there was a clear truck-asthma link most technicians, drivers, fleet managers, warehouse workers, etc. would all have asthma. The more likely culprit for asthma is poor housing conditions, particularly in public housing (NYCHA). It is also interesting to note that asthma rates in many industrial zones in Queens (LIC Astoria, Ridgewood Maspeth) are only slightly above city averages yet tobacco use is much higher. To that end, it is true that Hunts Point and Longwood (Hunts Point) have very high asthma rates. It is also true that they have the third-highest rate of tobacco retailers as well as severely limited supermarket space. Obesity and diabetes rates in these areas far exceed the City average as well.
It is a sad, sad state, that people literally have nothing better to do with their time than to run around recording trucks and busses.