Friday, August 15, 2008

How green is my city?

So with everyone from City Councillor Donna Holaday to State Rep. Mike Costello (who lives here) touting Newburyport as a model for green initiatives (not saying it is not), it brings to mind an encounter I had a couple of weeks back.

I was somewhere doing something, and there was a DPW crew also there, doing the same thing. They had parked their vehicle in front of mine.

So I walk back to the Jetta, and notice all the time we had been doing that thing (not what you're thinking), their vehicle was left running.

The crew ambled over and I said to one of them, "Hey, you left your engine running all this time?"

The person shrugged his shoulders and replied, "It's the city's money, not mine." He seemed to find his 'bon mots' quite amusing.

"Not a good thing to say to someone who lives in Newburyport," I replied. I was tempted to add, "And who has a blog, and who writes for local newspapers."

Doesn't that just warm your little cockles?


Ari Herzog said...

It's worse when DPW trucks are diesel.

Next time, take note of the person's physical appearance and the license plate and report him both to the mayor and the respective ward councillor.

Call it civic engagement, citizen journalism, or giving a damn.

Gillian Swart said...

Don't worry, if anyone is paying attention, they know to whom I am referring.

Ben said...

who cares if they left their engine running?

Penelope G. said...

I'm talking 20 or more minutes here. YOU paid for the wasted gas, if you're a taxpayer. So you should care.

Plus, what if someone had stolen the vehicle? They left a running vehicle (it was sort of a van) by the side of a busy road and walked about 100 ft. away, with their backs turned to the road the whole time.

Ben said...

reporting a city worker for leaving their vehicle running is a bit drastic, its not a crime.

and no one is going to steal a DPW vehicle, and so what if they did, THEY commited the crime, not the workers who left it running.

Gillian Swart said...


It was the attitude of "it's the city's money, not mine" that was the foul. To me, it's the same as stealing money from city coffers.

Leaving a vehicle running for 20 minutes or so - doesn't that hurt the vehicle, also? It didn't even make sense to have left it running!

I don't think the city's insurance company would have shared your view of who was liable, if someone had jumped in it and taken off.

No, it was not a crime - it was merely incredibly irresponsible. And the attitude sucked.

I figure that if anyone else really cares, the crew has already been identified without further assistance from me.

Ben said...

constantly starting the engine hurts the vehicle more than leaving it running. And the person committing the crime is responsible for the crime, not the victim.

as for the attitude, i imagine it probably had more to do with the fact that he was there to work, not answer the questions of the public. Frankly, would there have been any answer other than, "oh gee you're right, i'll shut it off" that would have satisfied? I'm not saying that you asking the question was out of line, or that their attitude was proper, but its understandable, they're just trying to get their work done, not defend every choice they make while doing it.

I'm sure if anyone had someone looking over their shoulder at work, they probably respond with a similar attitude.

Gillian Swart said...


They were NOT where they were to work. They were ogling at an unusual event, as was I. Do you want me to go into detail? Then they will be in trouble.

There was something going on, they stopped, got out of their vehicle, and went (like everyone else driving by) to check it out. It was about 11:30 a.m., so it is possible they were on a lunch hour.

Work had nothing to do with this, although I presume they were on their way to do some work. I think I made it clear in the post, when I said "I was somewhere doing something, and there was a DPW crew also there, doing the same thing."

You think that if someone leaves their keys in the car, and the car running, an insurance company would say, "Oh! No problem!"

Surely you don't think I believe that they could be prosecuted, but I'm sure the insurance company would have a problem or 2 with the circumstances.

They were where they were as civilian spectators - but even if they had been working, I would have had a problem with it.

Tom Salemi said...

I hate idlers. Bad for the environment, bad for the vehicle, and a waste of my tax money.


For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile. Research indicates that the average person idles their car five to 10 minutes a day. People usually idle their cars more in the winter than in the summer. But even in winter, you don't need to let your car sit and idle for five minutes to "warm it up" when 30 seconds will do just fine.

But you're not going anywhere. Idling gets ZERO miles per gallon.

The recommendation is: If you are going to be parked for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine. Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it. And when you start your engine, don't step down on the accelerator, just simply turn the key to start.

An alternative to idling is to park your car, walk inside, do your business and then go back to your car.

Here are some other Myths associated with idling.

Myth #1: The engine should be warmed up before driving. Reality: Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to do this is to drive the vehicle. With today's modern engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away.

Myth #2: Idling is good for your engine. Reality: Excessive idling can actually damage your engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs, and exhaust systems. Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption.

Myth #3: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle is hard on the engine and uses more gas than if you leave it running. Reality: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components like the battery and the starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money that will likely be recovered several times over in fuel savings from reduced idling. The bottom line is that more than ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.

Tom Salemi said...

And it is a crime in some places. I hope more communities will adopt similar measures.

Ben said...

so they stopped to look at something and left their car running, and that is a problem, why? You're a reporter, are you telling me you've never left your car running while checking something out? or even doing a errand like using the ATM?

as for the insurance, honestly, do you really think someone is going to steal a DPW truck? this is newburyport, you could leave your BMW running and its not going to get stolen, so i think a beat up city truck is probably safe. further, the city would probably welcome the theft as they could get a sorely needed new vehicle out of it.

Gillian Swart said...

Thanks, Tom!

And, Ben, no, I don't leave my car idling while I run errands, etc. I sometimes leave it running when I run back into the house for something I forgot or when I stop at the mailbox, but I try not to do that anymore, since I read that it wastes gas.

No, I realistically don't think someone would have stolen the vehicle. But I don't necessarily agree with your "This is Newburyport ..." comment. I was talking with a police officer last year, and you'd be surprised how many cars do get stolen/broken into here because people think it's "safe."

But this is all a digression from the real issue, which is that they thought it was OK because the city was paying for the wasted gas.

Ben said...

seems like an over reaction to me, but i wasn't there. maybe it was as egregious as you say.

Gillian Swart said...

It was just a little post, Ben, a little thought. It was the attitude that got me, in a time when the city is supposedly setting an example.