Drive-thru ban?

Saw this in an article about the Little Red Bike Cafe in North Portland, OR:

Drive-thru windows at fast-food restaurants and banks are a significant source of air pollution, because as determined by the EPA, drivers use more gas when idling than while in motion. A number of cities in the U.S. and Canada are considering drive-thru window bans. Santa Cruz, California, has already banned the creation of new drive-thru windows since 1979.

This been tried or considered in OC?



I would hope before we did this there would be some thought to parking lots, curbside delivery, or some other method of getting things without going into the store.

Personally, I never use "lines", they are always too long. EXCEPT, for days like yesterday when I HAD to pick up a prescription and I had a sleeping baby and two kids in the car. In that case the drive-thru worked out really well.

I would be open to something else though. I noticed that Harris Teeter in Durham has a spot you pull into, swipe a card, and they bring your groceries out to you. Reminds me of what Publix did in south Florida, where you could order your groceries online and a truck would deliver them to your house.

Anyway, not a fan of drive-thrus, but sometimes necessary or at least convenient.

Carrboro enacted this ban back in 1998.

Carrboro did it years ago
Jacquie Gist

I don't think drive-thrus are allowed in downtown Carrboro or Chapel Hill - hence the McDonald's without a drive-thru on W. Franklin Street. I believe that all the drive-thrus in both downtowns (Wendy's and some of the banks) pre-date such rules (ie in the 1990's I believe).

I hate drive-thru pharmacies. If you are mandated to counsel patients on new prescriptions, and you have to shout through a garbled speaker, it's not productive.

I thank the FSM that I don't work in a pharmacy with a drive-thru window. Every pharmacist I've talked to who works in one hates it.

Convenience is great, but we survived before drive-thru, and if it goes away, we'll be able to survive.

"Carrboro enacted this ban back in 1998."

Don't tell Wendy's

"I thank the FSM" = I suppose.

Hey CD,
I understand your concern and I wouldn't go through the drive-thru if I was picking up something new at a pharmacy, but how often do we do that?
Anyway, as to this:

Convenience is great, but we survived before drive-thru, and if it goes away, we'll be able to survive.

I could/would say the same about fast food restaurants and malls. At the same time, I know some people who feel that way about cell phones and the internet.

Hi Ken
Wendy's was built in 1976
Jacquie Gist

Mark, indeed.

I don't have stats, but there are plenty of new or short-term scrips every day: antibiotics, for example.

We'll survive without those things as well. For those among us who are too young to recall a time without the internet, it'll be tougher. (Card catalogs? Libraries?)

C. Diane, do you guys run out to folks cars and talk to them about their prescription? I knew of a pharmacy that didn't have a drive through that found their business being siphoned away by Walgreens because their customers who found it difficult to get in and out of the car preferred the convenience. Their answer was curb-side visits.

When you have a sleeping baby or sick kid in the car, or are handicapped (and it's raining or snowing), then drive-thrus are the height of luxury. But otherwise, I hate them.

Weaver Street Market's parking lot may log the most miles driven per parking space as people drive around hoping an open spot will materialize.

Is there a Chapel Hill ordinance prohibiting drive thrus? The only reference I could find was in the LUMO (3.7) which permits them as a special use. I'm curious, because it always boggled my mind that the Caribou Coffee at Estes & Franklin didn't make use of their existing drive in window. I hate using drive thrus myself: environmental impacts aside, when I eat in a car I tend to spill things on myself over half the time.

Actually, Jason, there was kind of a flap about whether they could use the drive thru at Caribou. I believe Chapel Hill took the position that the drivethru had been abandoned and could not be brought back because it was non-conforming, but I couldn't possibly tell you where that is in LUMO.

because of "historical" designations, several drive-thru
locations in CH-C are within the limits.
in other words, someone could ask to "preserve"
a particular drive-thru with precedent.

Wendy's drive through is one of the reasons my kids reached adulthood. That and driving out Arthur Minnis Road "to look for cows."

As someone who raised two kids far away from family, with a husband who traveled a great deal...there is a place for drive-throughs.

THAT said, I usually parked and went in. Unless there was howling in the back seat...or a sleeping kid...

If we really want to limit exhaust, why don't we do something to change that ridiculous stop light in front of Padget station, at Rosemary and Main? We were told it was only for pedestrians who pushed the button in order to cross the street, but it operates independently of pedestrians, stopping long lines of cars spewing exhaust.

We could also change some of the stop signs in our neighborhoods to Yield signs. The amount of traffic through some of those intersections does not warrent a full stop.

For the record, drive-thrus are not just about parental convenience, but for child safety. Dragging one or two children who must be held by the hand through a busy parking lot can be dangerous to the child. Cars move through parking lots with too much speed and disregard. Both lots at Carr Mill are dangerous to pedestrians of all ages. Also true for Carrboro Plaza.

There are handicapped persons who are aided by being able to drive-thru some businesses (esp. banks). Not to mention some of our elderly who have arthritic ankles and hips, or just the person with a sprained ankle or broken leg.

Drive-thru's are not the source of all evil. Or of all exhaust. Finding other ways or means to move traffic through or around town so that it keeps moving would be of help. Waiting two light cycles to get past the intersection of Weaver and Greensboro Streets puts out more exhaust than waiting at the bank. We need to consider other sources of emissions.

The environmental issues with drivethroughs are light pollution and idling. I know that Chapel Hill Transit has an idling policy--is there one in effect and enforced for other town vehicles?

The light pollution can be controlled with some effort. And there could also be a requirement that no lights remain on after closing.

Vicki Boyer has the most enlightening comments on this thread. Drive-thrus really are helpful to those who are elderly, sick, or with children (or anyone else who likes them). I agree that the stoplight at Padgett Station and the numerous other stops in neighborhoods, and of course the Carr Mill parking lot, are much greater environmental hazards than any drive-thru.

If such a ban does exist, it was foolhardy and there really is no reason for it that I can see.

Will, I work in the health department. Our clientele is limited, and they all have to walk into the deep, dark, windowless area where the clinics & pharmacy are to get their pills. We give out birth control for free, so I don't think we're at risk for competition with Walgreens.

I get my prescriptions at Harris Teeter, partly because that's where I get my groceries. When the new WSM opens up in H'borough, I might transfer them up to James'.

Also, ++ on the Carr Mill lot. There's never parking there.

If chapel hill transit has an idling policy, it's either really liberal or ignored. I have been riding the CHT system since before it was fare free and no matter how long a bus sits there, no matter what the weather is, I have never, ever, seen a bus turned off. Even when the driver goes to WSM in southern village for 10-15 to get coffee, the bus still idles. I take it back, now that I think about it when one bus I was on went to the end of the line where it turned around near where the new carrboro high is, it turned the engine off to wait there, but that is the only time. It kind of freaked me out because I thought the bus was broken down.

Jeremy, you might get a kick out of what I wrote in 2005 Leather Seated SUVs. I said I'd work to change the conservation ethic of our Town government so that conserving resources - whether turning off a light or shutting down an idling car - became a reflexive behavior.

Seeing one of our transit folks sitting in his air-conditioned SUV Downtown Chapel Hill burning an hour's worth of fuel spurred this particular post.

We've made some progress but I still see many little actions (or some big ones - like adopting measurable energy efficiency standards) we could encourage folks to take to reduce resource consumption.

I believe the CHT policy is that there should be no idling except when there is extreme weather. The buses coming and going from Southern Village regularly turn off their engines (except when it's very hot or very cold).

I want to second the commentators who noted that for some the drive-through is a necessity. I was a single parent for a while, and I've had a broken bone in my foot. On both occasions, drive-throughs were heaven sent. Life is sometimes too complicated and difficult for making easy policy decisions.

C. Diane, we librarians with our (electronic) card catalogs are alive and well and, in fact, busier and more relevant than ever.

As for drive-throughs: life with a toddler is much tougher when you can't drive through the bank. I really miss the drive through ATM we had in our town in western NC. That was really great. But I suppose this is all very-car-oriented of me.

The drive-thru at Wendy's was actually an issue back when it was built in the late '70s -- I believe there were several aldermen who tried to get it banned, but Wendy's got a building permit before the zoning ordinance could be changed. I'm prety sure it was a big issue in the '77 Carrboro Town elections.
I still remember a letter to the editor in the Chapel Hill Weekly from a mother of an infant who wrote in favor of the drive thru saying that being in the car was a more natural environment for the child than going into the restaurant. Melanie's post above brought back those memories.

I had one more thought that I neglected to mention earlier: has anyone ever noticed how far the Sunrise Bisquit Kitchen line backs up some weekend mornings? I've seen it spilling down Franklin, almost to the intersection with Estes.

I've been told that intersection has some of the worst air quality in Chapel Hill. Perhaps this is why? (ha ha)


The line does often back up onto Franklin. But I don't know what I'd do without my Saturday morning Sunrise biscuit. We usually stop on the way to the farmers' market.

The Biscuit Kitchen moves customers through there faster than they can get through the traffic light. I don't know how they do it.

How do we balance citizen safety with exhaust emissions? I prefer the safety of being in my car while using an ATM instead of being on foot. Women on foot with cash in their pockets are a target.

And is it fair to ask government employees to sit in a hot car on a 105 degree day when all around them are citizens sitting in air conditioning? Do we tell employees with asthma to suck it up?

How do you balance community needs?
Allow for individual discretion?
Or issue blanket orders?

My bad, now that I think about it again, Terri B, the driver with the glasses and beard and quotes taped to the front did actually turn his bus off when he went to WSM in SV to get coffee in the mornings. He also went through the trash bins to pull out recyclables and put them in the recycling bin which is located next to the trash bins. That's dedication, and I'd vote for that guy. The other drivers didn't turn off the bsses. Now I have not ridden that route since April or so, maybe something's changed since then. Just posting my observations as a rider of that particular route. Will, that post you linked is a good point. I noticed the drivers of those SUV's sitting in them idling too and that has always bugged me.

Vicki, the staff folks I'm referring to are idling just feet from A/C comfort. For instance, a transit dude I saw idling last week in the same location I photographed in 2005. He was within spitting distance of 6 cafes/restaurants he could've cooled his heels in.

I'll give you a counter-example - the police. I've seen them idling away in various parking lots filling out reports. Might appear wasteful (and maybe is in some cases) but I've always assumed they needed to be highly mobile in case of trouble. Then again, I've also seen a few filling out their paperwork sitting prominently Downtown.

I can see the motivation behind not encouraging extra car idling but I suspect that amount of time spent idling at drive thrus is dwarfed in comparison to the time spent sitting at stoplights or sitting in traffic. In fact, I think the word "dwarfed" isn't strong enough and "microscopic" would be better.

If you want to reduce the amount of pollution cars put into the air while idling there is a lot more low hanging fruit in the area of having people sit in traffic and at lights less than there is in the area of having people sit at drive thrus less.

In addition to all the other driving (and sitting in traffic) that people do, those that go through the drive thru at Wendy's or the ATM or whatever have already driven to those places to begin with, and probably sat waiting at traffic lights on the way.


Hopefully the CH traffic signal system upgrade, which the Town Council has requested that NCDOT move up on the priority list of DOT improvements for Division 7, will result in better-engineered traffic patterns resulting in less idling and thus fewer emissions. It might make sense at some of the longer lights (15-501 and Sage, 15-501 and Erwin come to mind) to turn off the ignition if you just missed making it through and you know you have a 2-3 minute wait.

Any mechanics/engineers out there know if restarting a vehicle has any adverse consequences for air quality? (In particular, I'm wondering if restarting might result in some unburned fuel being thrown out the exhaust).

It's better to turn off the engine than to idle George. See the myths section of the EPA factsheet linked below.

Whenever I ride the bus and it waits 10 minutes at the Jones Ferry Park and Ride, the bus is NEVER turned off-- I have not yet seen a bus driver turn it off. If that is a policy of Chapel Hill Transit, it is not followed by bus drivers.


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