Colorado Convention Center:
A Success Story in Reducing Onsite Vehicle Idling
PROBLEM: Engine exhaust from gas and diesel vehicles contains more than 40 hazardous air pollutants. Idling produces more harmful emissions than driving a vehicle because the fuel is not fully combusted when the engine is not at peak operating temperature. Excessive idling of trucks, buses, taxis, limos, and other vehicles is often responsible for creating a large amount of air pollution at public venues such as sports complexes, hotels, theaters, and other event locations and venues.
In 2008, the Colorado Convention Center (CCC) received complaintsabout idling fumes from their neighbor, the Emily Griffith TechnicalCollege (EGTC, former Emily Griffith Opportunity School). CCC partnered with the City
and County of Denver's Department of Environmental Health (DEH) to reducecommercial
vehicle idling through a social marketing pilot program.
PILOT PROGRAM: The pilot program was divided into three phases:initial research, social marketing, and follow up.
Engines Off! Denver staffcollectingidlingobservations at CCC to determine the initial level of the problem. Additional observations were also conducted after the program's implementation to determine if the program was successfulin decreasing idling vehicles. The original observations showed that indeed trucks andcommercial vehicles were idling beyond the current 10 minute idling ordinance, with 81% of the vehicles at CCC found idling and 50% of these were idling beyond 30 minutes. During the initial research, trucking companies, vendors, coach companies and destination management companies (or DMCs, often contracted to organize off-site activities such as dinners and airport transfers) were interviewed to uncover barriers to idling reduction. Drivers were also interviewed directly to identify the most persuasive messages to deter unnecessary idling. These messages were used on the signs.
The second phase of the program was a social marketing campaign designed to overcome the barriers and encourage drivers not to idle at the CCC. The program's main components included: Signs, security guard training, program introduction to all vendors and transportation companies, a public anti-idling pledge, driver education, reminder prompts, and community feedback. Some of the incentives used to encourage participation in the pilot program included recognition for companies on the CCC and City Websites, Engines OFF! stickers for drivers to inform passengers about their commitment to protect Denver's air, dashboard stopwatches to self-monitor their idling duration, and a Mayoral Commendation for their ongoing commitment to reduce idling.
The final phase of the program included collecting idling observations four months after the program launched to determine if it affected idling behavior at the CCC. Interviews were conducted to gauge CCC participation and driver buy-in to the program.
PILOT PROGRAM RESULTS: The pilot program was successful in reducing both the percent and duration of idling vehicles at CCC.
ABOUT THE COLORADO CONVENTION CENTER: Opened in 1990, with more than 100 professional meeting planners working together with architects to design every aspect of the building, the result was simple; a sensible, state-of-the-art facility with easy traffic flow and everything you need in a stunningly beautiful building in the heart of downtown Denver. Expanded in 2005, well-known as one of the most practical and "user friendly" meeting facilities, the Colorado Convention Center is now home to over 400 events annually. The Colorado Convention Center is located within easy walking distance of over 8,400 hotel rooms, 300 restaurants, 9 theatres of the Denver Performing Arts Complex and a wide variety of shopping and retail outlets.
ABOUT THE CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER'S DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: The Department of Environmental Health's (DEH) mission is to promote healthy communities. In 2008, Denver had an idling ordinance that limited the idling of all vehicles in the City and County of Denver to 10 minutes within one hour; that ordinance has been strengthened to limit vehicles to idling for only 5 minutes within an hour. The mission of Engines Off! Denver, a program of DEH, is to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing unnecessary vehicle idling. Engines Off! Denver aims to foster voluntary behavior change by all drivers through education and outreach. They provide workshops and resources tailored for specific driving sectors or companies. They have also facilitated pilot programs and meetings in response to air quality concerns in the Denver community.
For more information about the pilot program at the Colorado Convention Center, summary reports from consultants GBSM and BBC Research are available:
- Engines Off Idling Reduction Social Marketing Pilot Program
- Colorado Convention Center Idling Study Pre- and Post-Campaign Results
- Colorado Convention Center's Air Quality web page
- Before you begin an idle reduction campaign at your venue, read the Lessons Learned from the Colorado Convention Center.