Idling Laws to become more Restrictive


The City of Toronto’s Health Officials are planning on overhauling the current Idling Laws, which fall under the City of Toronto Municipal CodeChapter 517 “Idling of Vehicles and Boats” which were enacted in 1996.

Currently drivers are only allowed to idle for three (3) minutes every 60 minutes, but Toronto’s Health Officials want to reduce the three (3) minutes idle time to sixty (60) seconds, per hour.

There are currently thirteen (13) idling exemptions on the books, one of the exemptions is allow motor vehicles and boats to idle in extreme temperatures (in excess of 27 degrees Celsius or less than 5 degrees Celsius) and Toronto’s Health Officials would like to remove this exemption.

Toronto’s Health Officials would also like to extend enforcement and allow parking enforcement officers to also issue infraction tickets for this offence.  This infraction carries with it a $ 105.00 fine (excluding the victim fine surcharge and court fee), but can be as high as a five thousand ($5,000.00) fine.

After consulting about these potential changes yesterday, the City of Toronto’s Health Board, sent the proposed changes to the City of Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health for further input from Toronto Police Services. After their is further consultation there is no doubt that the recommended changes will pass and then be quickly implemented. Although the City has not suggested that there will be a change in the actual fine;  motor vehicle/boat operators can expect an increase in the idling fine, since the Bylaw is being modified and refined.


Toronto’s idling control bylaw was first passed in 1996 and according to Natural Resources Canada, it was the first stand-alone idling control bylaw in Canada. The current idling control bylaw dates from 1998, when a new bylaw was passed to expand the bylaw’s application from the former City of Toronto to the amalgamated City of Toronto. The bylaw was developed in response to concerns that motor vehicles were contributing to unhealthy levels of air pollution in the City. The bylaw was designed to reduce vehicle emissions of air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter which contribute to smog.

Municipal Code Chapter 517, Idling of Vehicles and Boats (the “bylaw”), currently limits idling to three minutes in any 60 minute period and allows exemptions under 13 specific situations. For example, exemptions address emergency vehicles, transit vehicles, extreme temperatures (above 27 degrees Celsius, or below 5 degrees Celsius), and mobile workshops where the vehicle motor powers work related equipment.

The Board of Health requested that the Medical Officer of Health consider the implications of reducing allowable idling time to ten seconds. Many stakeholders indicate that a ten second limit is not practical. Natural Resources Canada promotes a 1 minute limit as a national guideline for limiting idling time. Moving towards a consistent, nationally-recommended idling limit may aid enforcement and public education.

The City of Toronto’s Board of Health’s Officials are proposing that the idling time be decreased to one minute of idling in any 60-minute period. The feasibility of a one-minute limit is supported by the existence of a one-minute idling limit in other jurisdictions including cities in Sweden and some U.S. municipalities. In Singapore and England, the legislation states that vehicle engines must be off when vehicles are stationary for any reason other than being stopped in traffic. On April 14, 2009, the City of Burlington became the first municipality in Canada to adopt an idling control bylaw which limits idling to one minute.

The current Idling Bylaw:


TRANSIT VEHICLE — Public transit vehicles, tour buses and motor coaches.

VEHICLE — A motor vehicle, trailer, traction engine, farm tractor or road-building machine as defined in the Highway Traffic Act and any vehicle drawn, propelled or driven by any kind of non-muscular power, but does not include cars of electric or diesel electric railways running only upon rails.

§ 517-2. Restrictions on idling; exceptions.
A. No person shall cause or permit a vehicle or boat to idle for more than three minutes in a sixty-minute period.

B. [Amended 1999-5-12 by By-law No. 238-1999]

Subsection A does not apply to:
(1) Police, fire or ambulance vehicles or boats while engaged in operational activities, including training activities, except where idling is substantially for the convenience of the operator of the vehicle or boat.
(2) Vehicles and boats assisting in an emergency activity.
(3) Ferry boats operated by the City of Toronto or the Toronto Harbour Commissioners providing service to the Toronto Islands, including the Toronto Island Airport.
(4) Boats not at anchor or tied to a dock.
(5) Mobile workshops while they are in the course of being used for their basic function.
(6) Vehicles or boats where idling is required to repair the vehicle or boat or to prepare a vehicle or boat for service.
(7) Armoured vehicles where a person remains inside the vehicle while guarding the contents of the vehicle or while the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded.
(8) Vehicles or boats required to remain motionless because of an emergency, traffic, weather conditions or mechanical difficulties over which the driver has no control.
(9) Vehicles or boats engaged in a parade or race or any other event authorized by Council.
(10) Transit vehicles while passengers are embarking or disembarking en route or in terminals.
(11) Transit vehicles while at a layover or stopover location except where idling is substantially for the convenience of the operator of the vehicle.

(12) Vehicles transporting a person where a medical doctor certifies in writing that
for medical reasons a person in a vehicle requires that temperature or humidity
be maintained within a certain range.
(13) Vehicles or boats when the ambient temperature inside a vehicle or boat is:
(a) More than 27 degrees Celsius; or
(b) Less than 5 degrees Celsius.

§ 517-3. Offences.
[Amended 1999-11-25 by By-law No. 746-1999]
Every person who contravenes any provision of this chapter is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine as provided for in the Provincial Offences Act.

Under section 61 of the Provincial Offences Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.33, a person convicted of an offence is liable to a fine of not more than $5,000.

Update: Nov.20/09 – Drive-Throughs will fall next in Anti-Idling War

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