Turn it Off: Anti-Idling Project Using Commitment, Prompts and Norms

In an attempt to combat vehicle idling, Toronto instated an Anti-Idling Bylaw limiting vehicle idling to three minutes. However, because enforcement proved difficult, the bylaw alone had limited effectiveness and revealed a need for alternative interventions. To meet this need, Turn it Off, a community-based initiative, was designed to encourage individuals to avoid idling their vehicles while waiting at school pick-up areas and Kiss and Ride parking lots. Two studies on vehicle idling had been conducted in Canada prior to the creation of the Turn it Off program and provided information on why individuals idle their vehicles in addition to the barriers and motivations associated with turning off engines while waiting in a vehicle. Strategies implemented as part of the program were designed with these barriers and motivations in mind and included prompts to remind people to turn off their engines (signs and vehicle stickers) and obtaining a commitment from drivers waiting at targeted locations. Focus groups were held to obtain feedback on these strategies as well as to provide input on the kinds of communication materials that should be developed for the program. Locations for piloting the program were determined in consultation with project partners with final selections based on criteria including the physical layout of the site, willingness of site management, population demographics, and whether or not engine idling was prevalent. The twelve selected school and transit lot locations were then randomly divided into three treatment conditions: (1) signs with the behavior request were placed on site; (2) signs were placed, information leaflets given out and commitments were sought from motorists; and (3) no signs, information, or commitments were provided (control group). Baseline data was collected at each site for ten days and followed by a two-week intervention period where strategies were implemented. Follow-up data was then collected post-intervention and compared to baseline results. When compared to data collected at control sites, areas that received interventions saw incidences of engine idling decrease by 27% and idling duration was reduced by 78%. 

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