Idling gets you nowhere. Turn your engines OFF!

Did you know that the City of Burlington has an idling control bylaw to limit unnecessary idling and that idling for more than one minute can result in a $120 ticket?

Idling and Climate Change

In April 2019, Burlington City Council passed a Climate Emergency Declaration “that Council and staff immediately increase the priority of the fight against climate change.” A lot of work is taking place to address climate change through:

In Burlington, the transportation sector accounts for about 40 per cent of our local greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Turning your engine off when not in use is a simple way to reduce your personal GHG emissions that contribute to climate change.

Idling Myths

Myth: It’s cold outside. I need to idle to warm up my vehicle.

Reality: The best way to warm up your vehicle is to drive it. This will help lower emissions, reduce damage to your vehicle components, save money, and eliminate the risk of idling or ‘warm-up’ vehicle theft. Across Alberta, where 25 per cent of stolen vehicles are stolen while idling, police services have initiated “Operation Cold Start” where officers patrol neighbourhoods watching for empty idling vehicles and talk to the owner. As the police stated: “people want to sit in a warm vehicle … unfortunately so do thieves.” Reminders have also been issued by Halton Police including on Jan. 11, 2022.

Halton Regional Police Service issue a reminder about idling thefts in Jan. 2022.

Myth: Turning a vehicle on and off produces more emissions than letting a vehicle idle.

Reality: According to Natural Resources Canada, idling for over 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more carbon dioxide compared to restarting your engine.

Need an Idle Free Zone sign for your business or school?

Idling signs measure 30 x 45 cm and can be purchased for $23.70 + HST. Email to order.

Metal idle free zone sign
A sign placed at a local school as part of their campaign.

Run a school campaign

We provide resources to schools running idling awareness campaigns. These campaigns remind parents and caregivers to turn their engines off while waiting to pick up students. Email for the following items:

A banner at a local school in support of their campaign.

Report excessive idling

If you see repeated excessive idling (Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.), report it to Burlington Parking Services at 905-335-7777 or email If it’s after hours, call Halton Regional Police at 905-825-4777 and ask for “dispatch” for a parking officer.

Other ways to reduce your mobility emissions

For short trips, walk or ride your bike. Check out Burlington Transit routes in your neighbourhood or take the GO train to surrounding regions. If you need to drive, have you considered an electric vehicle (EV)? The Plug’n Drive Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre in Toronto provides the ability to test drive a range of EVs without the pressure of having to purchase a vehicle. They can also help you with your EV charging options.

A little history about idling in Burlington

Idling was first flagged by the Burlington Sustainable Development Advisory Committee in 1999 and a Council resolution was adopted in 2000 to develop an education strategy and present a draft bylaw one year from the implementation of the education strategy. An idling campaign was launched on Clean Air Day in June 2003 with a media event at City Hall. Posters and bookmarks were distributed to all public schools and over 100 outdoor metal signs were posted at City municipal facilities and schools. City staff were also subject to a new idling control policy and information was included on their pay stubs. Burlington was also part of GTA wide idling blitzes in 2003 and 2005.

Burlington’s first idling bylaw for unnecessary idling was approved by City Council in 2004 and came into effect in May 2005. At the time, the idling limit was three minutes with exemptions. The bylaw, which also applies to City staff, was strengthened in 2009 reducing the unnecessary idling limit to one minute and again in 2014 when it was amalgamated with the parking bylaw for housekeeping purposes. The bylaw is now officially known as the Parking and Idling Bylaw.

Two decades later, Burlington continues to profile idling through blog posts such as this, social media campaigns, communications with staff, distribution of campaign material for schools, etc. Burlington has produced different communications material on idling over the years to keep the issue top of mind. As such, this material has been requested for use by other municipalities or non-profit organizations across Canada and sustainability staff have had numerous conversations with staff from other jurisdictions about the issue.

Take Action Burlington. Turn your engine OFF. Collectively we can make a difference!

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