California’s Air Resources Board also has no information on whether its ban on idling school buses is being enforced.
Federal regulations, however, are starting to clean up diesel vehicles, including school buses. In 2007, the EPA required better emission controls on new diesel truck and bus engines, such as soot filters and cleaner fuel.
Under the new EPA standards, a school bus made in 2008 will produce 90 percent less soot than a bus made in 2006. The retirement age for buses was also reduced from 19 to 16 years, so as the bus fleet turns over, the buses will become cleaner. Some buses will even be fitted with systems that are capable of monitoring idling times.
Bloomberg launched a “Turn It Off!” campaign with ads on radio, bus stops and billboards, encouraging drivers to stop idling in the city.
Advocacy groups are encouraged by the attention in recent years, and are hopeful that the momentum from new laws will lead to greater awareness. But the problem is far from solved, as seen by the continued idling of buses and cars as schools leave school each day.
Cars are not a significant source of pollution near the schools, probably because gasoline contributes less black carbon and particulate matter than diesel fuel, the New York City study found. However, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Asthma Free School Zone are targeting all vehicles with their anti-idling campaign.
“It all adds up. It’s all unhealthy,” Silverman said. “It’s right at the curbside, at stroller level, and it’s totally unnecessary. Turning it off is a win-win for everybody.”