Clearing the air is easier than ever
Winter is coming. And along with it, inversion season. As temperature and pressure changes trap pollutants in the Salt Lake Valley, it is an important time to recommit to reducing our impact.
Air pollution in general is extremely costly in terms of public health and our economy. In the U.S., we spend $131 billion in air quality-related damages each year. The costs to our well-being are enormous. Bad air is linked to asthma, pneumonia, pregnancy loss, and premature death.
Luckily, expansions to our public transportation infrastructure are making it even easier to leave your car at home and help clear the air.
Public Transit Expansions
One way to avoid driving is to make use of public transit.
In July, Salt Lake City and the Utah Transit Authority expanded services on three essential routes, the 2, 9, and 21 bus. The expansions are critical steps towards improving air quality because they allow more riders to take advantage of the public system.
The bus route expansions are among several enhancements made possible through the Funding our Futures income (comprised of a sales tax increase, passed by the City Council, and a bond, approved by Salt Lake City voters, in 2018.)
The results are already starting to come in!
As a result of the three expanded lines, which come at more convenient 15 minute intervals, more neighborhoods have access to the lines. The change has resulted in a spike in ridership on all 3 routes. As more people have access to our public transit network, we can all breathe a little easier (literally) because fewer cars are on the road.
UTA and Salt Lake City have also teamed up to make public transit more affordable. The Hive Pass, available to Salt Lake City residents, provides a 50% discount on monthly public transit fare. The pass also includes a free 1 year membership to GREENbikes.
Are you a transit rider or would you like to be one? Please take this survey on the Hive Pass and the options Salt Lake City provides to residents to make transit more affordable.
Now would be the ideal time to have a GREENbike pass, too! Salt Lake City’s bike share program has grown quickly since it debuted in 2013. The GREENbikes fill a gap in transit options by creating a network of stations to help residents quickly get from place to place. The GREENbikes are a healthy alternative to the bus for riders, and a fun zero-emissions transit option.
Earlier this year, GREENbike added 50 e-bikes to their fleet. The electric bikes are available for the same rate as the standard bikes and make Salt Lake City’s hills a breeze!
This month, GREENbike announced its expansion into South Salt Lake. With 42 stations, the bikes are more readily available to low-income residents and connect to existing transit lines, which can simplify longer commutes.
You’ll also soon see station expansions at other locations around town — Liberty Park, the Granary District, 9th and 9th, and more!
Opt for Electric!
What’s that you say? You want another option? Well, you’re in luck! Electric vehicles can reduce local emissions up to 99%. Indeed, EVs can help you cut fuel costs and emissions.
As part of an effort to encourage electric vehicle use, Salt Lake City offers charging stations citywide, 52 of which are free to use. Additionally, the city offers parking discounts to registered vehicles. You can find out more about EVs on the SLCgreen EV page.
Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free
You’ve probably heard the catchy mnemonic. In 2011, Salt Lake City codified the Idle Free Ordinance prohibiting unnecessary idling as a means of protecting our air quality and public health. Vehicles produce nearly 50% of the emissions entering our air each winter. This is especially a problem for Utah, which received failing grades for ozone and particulate matter from the American Lung Association. In summer, car exhaust contributes to ozone build up. In winter, as more cars are running and idling, more PM2.5 start to fill the air.
Putting a stop to unnecessary idling helps limit the amount of bad air that accumulates in the valley. Being idle free also helps save money by lowering your car’s fuel consumption. UCAIR reports that ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the car and restarting it. Another way to think about idling is in distances: 2 minutes of idling uses roughly the amount of fuel needed to go one mile.
Salt Lake City’s Idle Free Ordinance sets the limit for unnecessary idling at two minutes.
Help Keep the Air Clean this Fall and Winter
One of the best ways to protect our air is to limit the use of your car. That said, even if you do drive, you can curb pollution by not idling unnecessarily. But there are many ways to avoid idling — and single passenger car trips — altogether. As bus routes and bike share options continue to grow, it is easier to skip the car and try out the alternative and cleaner options!