MPS Anti-Idling Campaign

MPS Anti-Idling Campaign

By Jessica Weina

In April 2006, the United States Environmental Protection Agency released a compilation of national anti-idling regulations which lists state, county, and local laws regarding vehicle idling. 

Of the states listed, Wisconsin was the only state not to impose anti-idling laws upon buses. All of this will change next year though.

That’s because Milwaukee Public Schools receiving the CDC Asthma Management Grant began their anti-idling campaign Wednesday which, starting during the 2010-2011 school year, will require buses and other vehicles to turn off their engines while on MPS premises.

The initiative will require by contract all bus companies to install new filter systems that decrease particulate matter, or small particles, in the air.

Further, it will require buses to turn off their engines while waiting on school grounds.

Parents will also be asked not to idle during their time on school property. 

“Milwaukee is consistently in the top ten for asthma capitals of the United States of America,” Brett Fuller, curriculum specialist for MPS Wellness and Prevention said.

Asthma is currently a national epidemic in the U.S. and doesn’t prove any different in the Milwaukee area.

 According to Fuller, approximately 12 percent of MPS students report having asthma. This is nearly three percent higher than the national average in children according to reports from the Center for Disease Control Prevention two years ago. 

The Asthma Management Grant is a five year grant given to ten schools annually.

Currently, twenty MPS schools receive the grant, including Congress Extended Year-Round School, which allows for continued education about asthma and the placement of THIS IS A NO IDLING ZONE signs.

The anti-idling campaign may also prove effective for Milwaukee area bus companies as well, because turning bus engines off saves thousands of dollars in fuel annually.

What’s interesting though is that an extremely small amount of bus company employees are aware of the anti-idling campaign.


Fuller stated that Milwaukee has the second highest hospitalization rate and highest emergency room visitation rate for asthma in Wisconsin.

It’s reasons like this that members of the anti-idling campaign urge drivers to “Turn Your Key. Be Idle Free.”

With the management grant, MPS staff is trained specifically in asthma management techniques. They are also taught how to provide controlled indoor air quality.

This is crucial because according to Dr. Michael Zacharisen of Children’s Hospital, “Last Friday, the American Lung Association released its annual report card on air quality for each county in Wisconsin and Milwaukee County did not fair so well.”

He said that the ‘F’ grade was due to a number of days of elevated levels of ozone and air matter in the two and half micron range.

The problem with elevated micron ranges, or how particles are measured in the air, is that these particles get lodged in our lungs and can potentially cause irritation and decreased lung function according to the American Lung Association.

What’s more is that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (who MPS is working in congruence with,) these small particles are responsible for thousands of premature deaths each year which aggravate respiratory diseases like asthma.

The EPA also conducted a study in 2002 about diesel engine exhaust and concluded that “long-term (i.e., chronic) inhalation exposure is likely to pose a lung cancer hazard to humans.”

Cost and Fuel Efficiency

With the threat of serious health hazards, bus emissions also waste fuel which translate into money loss.

Over ten bus companies service buses to MPS schools. If one of these buses avoided five minutes of idling daily, it would save seven and half gallons of fuel annually.

This translates into over 30 dollars of annual savings for bus companies assuming gas prices are around four dollars per gallon.

These projected cost savings are exponential when considering the bus fleets that service MPS on a daily basis.

However, several employees from bus companies like Lakeside and Lamers, still do not know what the anti-idling campaign is.

Regardless, the EPA urges buses to stop idling because of increased wear and tear on their engines.

The association also claims that, according to a recent EPA study, school buses contain less pollutants when they are restarted as opposed to continuously idling over a ten minute period.

For skeptical bus companies, EPA suggests alternative equipment for older bus models that apparently help with problems like heating and lighting.

Block heaters, or auxiliary heaters use a half a cup of diesel per hour in contrast to the half a gallon of diesel used during idling.

EPA suggests rewiring the electrical compartments of older buses to increase efficiency as well.


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