Monday, April 22, 2013

Controlling Air Pollution in New York City

A drawback of a large city is air pollution, however New York City has implemented a myriad of measures to mitigate air pollution.  PlaNYC has set the goal “to achieve the cleanest air quality of any big U.S. city by 2030.”

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for updating and enforcing the Air Pollution Control Code, which “preserves, protects, and improves the air resources of the city.” 

New York City has established a set of measures to reduce emissions from transportation (mainly cars, buses, and trucks) as each year 11 percent of fine particulate matter and 28 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions are attributed to motor vehicles.

Below is a list of some of the measures to reduce emissions from motor vehicles. 

Idling motor vehicles contribute to a significant percent of the total emissions in New York City.  Consequently, the city has an idling law in effect, which “limits vehicle idling to no more than one minute adjacent to a public or private school.”  In addition, city officials are responsible for enforcing and issuing fines of $350 or more to those that break the law.

In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg signed Local Law 39 requiring all city vehicles to be powered by ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and the engine be certified to EPA standards for reducing the emission of pollutants. 

Also, signed into law in 2005, Local Law 41 mandates that any sight-seeing bus be registered by the Department of Consumer Affairs and must use the best available technology for emissions reduction.  Ultimately, diesel particulate filters and diesel oxidation catalysts were implemented to mitigate emissions. 

In addition, school buses shall use ultra-low diesel fuel and apply the best available retrofit technology to reduce emissions.  As of 2011, 96 percent of school buses in New York City were using emission control devices and the city plans to reach 100 percent compliance. 

While the city has an extensive list of air codes, small changes such as the switch to ultra-low diesel fuel have a significant impact on New York’s goal to improve air quality. 

Thanks to Ben Chaney for editing this post.

NYC Air Pollution Control Code-


  1. I'm interested in finding out if NYC has been able to measure the success of the idling regulations? I believe these are relatively new regs (implemented around 2009?). I wonder if they've done any studies to see if air quality has improved. I also wonder about enforcement and if they've run into any problems w/ that?

  2. I don't believe NYC has published the measurements from their idling law. The regulation was implemented in 2009. It seems as though regulation of the law could be a problem as traffic enforcement agents are responsible for issuing idling citations. According to an article published in February 2012, since 2009 "traffic enforcement agents have only given, on average, one ticket per agent per year."

    However, this is a multi-faceted issue as the law doesn't have much merit if it's not being enforced, yet enforcement costs money. How does NYC enforce idling in a cost-effective manner?


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