The Textizen Blog

NOV 20 2014

Clean Air Council Partners with Textizen to Reduce Harmful Idling

Clean Air text reporting in action

Field reporters sending idling reports via text.

From its beginning in 1967 as a two-person effort with a shoestring budget to its present-day status as a regional powerhouse, Philadelphia headquartered Clean Air Council has shown that hard work and efficient operation can be just as powerful as vast resources. Now, the Council is offering a prime example of how a lightweight and widely-used technology can be employed in a novel way to address local pollution and create change.

One key effort for Clean Air Council is fighting excessive vehicle idling, a common preventable cause of air pollution. The Council is no stranger to boots-on-the-ground activism: in early 2013, members David Lukens and Logan Welde earned a reputation for confronting idling drivers by knocking on windows and citing the city’s anti-idling laws.

By 2014, Lukens and Welde had decided to take the Council’s anti-idling efforts to the next level. Lukens forged a partnership between Clean Air Council and Textizen, and the two persuaded multiple Philadelphia agencies to test out a unique anti-idling initiative.

“Before Textizen, it was not easy to report idling vehicles in Philadelphia, nor was it possible to get those reports to the people that could help reduce idling. Now, reporting idling to our participating agencies is as easy as sending a text.

-Logan Welde
Staff Attorney, Clean Air Council

How does it work? Trained volunteers who spot idling vehicles send in reports via text message, using a simple protocol to submit information in a matter of seconds. These reports are automatically forwarded to agency officials who have the power to shut down idlers in real time and enact internal policy changes.

Already, the new text message reporting system has helped Clean Air Council and its partner agencies collaborate on stronger anti-idling policies, improve enforcement, and reduce harmful pollution.

Big idling truck

Improving Reporting, Driving Change

Most transportation agencies have rules about when vehicle idling is acceptable, such as in extremely cold weather. However, with thorough oversight traditionally being difficult, carelessness or indifference has led to unnecessary fuel consumption and noxious emissions.

Since deploying Textizen, the Council has used data from text-in reports to collaborate with six Philadelphia agencies on new anti-idling policies. Of these, four have already implemented the new policies, and the remaining two will be doing so in the near future.

This is an exciting development in an area previously hindered by limitations in communication and documentation. For Clean Air Council, Textizen replaced a web-based tool that did not see much use due to its impracticality for mobile users. Opening a browser, loading the page, and submitting a report took minutes rather than seconds, and excluded those without smartphones or mobile data.

Now, submitting a report by text takes just a few moments, and the text-in data is automatically converted into a detailed and readable report which is emailed to the relevant agency. Here is a sample report:

Hello, a trained volunteer just spotted an idling vehicle and provided the following details via text message if you want to investigate:
[Agency] - Vehicle 1234567
License Plate: XX-1234
Location: 50th and Baltimore
Time: 09/11/14 09:00:27 AM EDT
Duration: 5 minutes.
Notes: Driver in vehicle using his laptop. Idling when I got here. Idling when I left.
Weather: 71.2 F (21.8 C) Overcast

In addition to greater reporting efficiency, Textizen enables Clean Air Council to track progress over time by collecting all idling reports in a single online dashboard. Visualizing the frequency and contents of reports over time allows the Council to monitor the impact of their efforts, and will help their partner agencies demonstrate the effectiveness of their improved anti-idling policies.

Reporting in a Snap: Photo Messaging

The best part is that Clean Air Council’s idling reporting is about to get even easier with the introduction of Textizen Photo Messaging this spring. With this new capability, The Council will be able to receive photos alongside the text message reports, further streamlining the process by eliminating the need to type out license plate numbers or vehicle models.

By using lightweight and accessible technology, Clean Air Council has reduced their overhead and turned an ineffective program into a powerful force for change. We’re excited to be a part of this effort to reduce air pollution in Philadelphia, and we hope to be able to contribute to more environmental efforts in the coming months!

If you’re ready to use mobile to empower your environmental campaign, or if you’d like to beta test our upcoming Photo Messaging features, get in touch: