Pima County cutting idle time for fleet vehicles, helping reduce air pollution

Updated: Jul. 10, 2019 at 7:10 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - In one year, Pima County cut its idle time from 122,000 hours to 99,000 hours.

That is the number of hours the 1,360 vehicles in the county fleet idled during the year.

“The county actually has a GPS system on all county vehicles so we do know when people are idling,” said Ursula Kramer Nelson, Director of the Pima County Environmental Quality. “We’ll go talk to people and ask did you really need to idle.”

It’s an aggressive approach started by the county two years ago in an effort to improve air quality.

The county exceeded EPA ozone standards multiple times in 2018 as it is looking for ways to come into compliance.

“There aren’t any big things out there,” Nelson said. “There aren’t any big ticket items, if you will, that we can do that will drastically reduce the air (pollution).”

That leaves little things like the idle time. The county has not exceeded standards so far in 2019, but it’s only halfway through the season.

“We may not be able to quantify how much it’s helping, but we know every little bit helps,” she said.

The county is getting some of that help from Professor Eric Betterton from the University of Arizona. He has installed a device on top of a U of A science building which will measure the ozone 24 hours a day, seven days a seek.

The task is to determine what is causing the levels to exceed the limits, which could also include carbon emitters.

“If you don’t know what the concentration of these pollutants is, you can’t figure out how to attack the problem and get us back into compliance,” said Betterton, who had installed the device this spring, so he had limited data.

“We’ll see what happens during the monsoon,” he said.

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