This article was published in the Spring 2019 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine.
By Bailey Bowthorpe, Policy Communication & Program Manager, Salt Lake Chamber
When an episode of wintertime inversion sinks into our valleys, clean air becomes a top concern for all Utahns. But when inversion fades away with the winter (and we don’t see it out the window) we tend to forget about our state’s air quality challenges. The truth is these challenges don’t go away with the spring weather and while it may not be as visible as during inversion season, it is just as important to reduce our emissions in April or September as it is in January and February. Clean air must be a year-round effort and it takes all of us making small changes to ensure a measurable difference.
Utah’s business community has led the way in promoting and implementing voluntary efforts to help reduce emissions and keep our air clear. This is because air quality is as much a business and economic development issue as it is an environmental one. Our spectacular natural environment is one of the major reasons Utah is the best place to live, work, learn, and play, and we know many companies and employees choose to locate and stay here for this reason. By making decisions that promote clean air, businesses and employees alike help to strengthen our economy and prevent the negative health-related outcomes often associated with poor air.
Currently, 48 percent of our air pollution comes from tailpipe emissions. This means that by taking steps to reduce our single-occupancy vehicle trips and make changes to our commuting habits, we can help prevent and mitigate the effects of poor air quality and ease our congested roadways. Three of the easiest actions you can take to clear the air year-round are by taking transit, using active transportation, and carpooling.
With increased accessibility to FrontRunner, TRAX, and bus routes it is more convenient than ever to use transit in Utah. Riding public transit is a great way to save money on gas, parking, and car maintenance while reducing vehicle emissions and avoiding traffic congestion. This step to change your daily commute can make a big difference for Utah’s air quality. According to the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), their newer and cleaner bus technology only takes 1.26 passengers on a regular bus to offset the emissions of that bus. Bussing to a TRAX station and taking transit to work equals about three gallons of emissions per trip (seven miles average commute) versus 53 gallons of emissions emitted by a single occupancy vehicle in one trip. If everyone along the Wasatch Front who currently drives to work would take transit just one day a week, UTA would triple its ridership, take 300,000 car trips off the road every day, and eliminate 10 million vehicle miles of driving every day. Just think if every employee in your department or company took transit, the difference your business alone could make for Utah’s air quality. Not only does riding transit help clean our air, but it can actually increase your productivity at work and beyond.
As the winter snow and cold begin to move out, it becomes more and more viable to incorporate active transportation like biking or walking into your daily routine. Active transportation has a number of benefits beyond just those of reducing emissions. One of the most prominent benefits of biking, walking, or other modes of active transportation is improving our overall health and helps increase productivity at work.
As TravelWise explains, “While it requires some coordination of schedules, carpooling, or ridesharing, is a strategy that can be easily implemented to achieve significant results.” What are these results? Employees save on gas, car maintenance, parking fees and have the ability to travel in the HOV/express lane to save time. In fact, according to Pollution Prevention Pays, if 100 people paired up into daily carpools, they would save 12,000 gallons of gasoline each year, proving that small changes really can have a large impact. Carpooling also results in fewer vehicles on the road, leading to a decrease in emissions and better air quality for everyone.