By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City, in an effort to cut down on carbon emissions, could allow concerned citizens to earn thousands of dollars by video-taping vehicles idling illegally, officials said on Tuesday.
A bill to be proposed on Wednesday would allow people to submit video evidence of idling to the city and pocket up to half of the fines imposed on rule-breakers, officials said.
The bill would continue to allow first-time offenders to receive warnings but would seek to raise the fines for illegal idling to a minimum of $350 from $220 and a maximum of $1,500 from $1,000 for second violations within two-year period. Third violations would be more.
Residents have long complained about double-decker busses idling outside popular tourist attractions and truck drivers leaving engines running while they make deliveries, said City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal.
"Communities have been trying to work on this issue for so many years," Rosenthal said in a statement. "We are fed up."
The proposed measure would enforce existing rules that ban vehicles from sitting idle with engines running for more than three minutes on most streets and more than one minute in school zones.
Currently, the city Department of Environmental Protection and police can issue tickets for idling but rarely do so for lack of resources, said the measure's sponsors, Rosenthal and Councilman Donovan Richards.
Supporting the bill are environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, which says idling engines burn more than 10 billion gallons (38 billion liters) of gasoline per year nationwide.
Under the proposal, someone could record vehicles, with license plates visible, idling for more than the allowed time period and submit the footage through the DEP website.
If a ticket is issued as a result, that person would receive payment.
If the bill moves through the city council, it would take about a year before it gets signed into law.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Sandra Maler)