In the months following our collective action to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, the air quality improved around the globe. According to University of Utah research, particulate matter pollution in Salt Lake City was reduced 59% as of May 6.
Although Salt Lake City is maintaining an “orange” status for our COVID-19 response, there has been an uptick in cases across Utah. In a city in which public health is harmed by poor air quality, any virus that affects the respiratory system is cause for concern. However, with the knowledge that stay at home orders temporarily reduced our local air pollution, we can learn more about possible ways of improving air quality in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at the ways air quality and COVID-19 interact – and some ways you can help protect the air and each other.
We send our love to all of you. The events of the last few weeks have been a difficult and trying time for our country, our community, and our city.
We want to take this moment to acknowledge the profound injustice of black lives lost to white supremacy and police brutality across the country. We stand with the movement to bring greater justice to our entire community. Black lives matter.
Those of us who work in Salt Lake City government have felt so many emotions as we collectively work towards a community that is stronger, more equitable, more inclusive, and more responsive to you—our residents. We are working to ensure we are hearing all voices.
As the Sustainability Department, we’d also like to share our thoughts on the role we play in advancing equity within the City and our community.
We define “sustainability” as the balance between environmental, societal, economic, and equity needs. While “sustainability” is often thought of as only an “environmental” movement (and for much of its history it has been), we believe true sustainability prioritizes a healthy society in all of the ways that comes about.
Sustainability also means not jeopardizing our community’s future well-being over decisions we make in the present. And we’d also add: “over decisions that were made in the past.”
Many people are having conversations about what racism means in America in 2020. It’s impossible to discuss that without looking to our nation’s past.
We’re looking at health indicators that are worse in minority communities that make them more susceptible to air pollution, while at the same time, many are exposed to air pollution at higher amounts because of where they live (near industry, near highways, and by working in professions that increases exposure). There are also barriers to information, to health care, and to so many other resources that make these factors worse. So our efforts to reduce “air pollution,” also must mean addressing these inequities in all of the ways we can.
It’s similar with climate change. Of course, we know that temperatures are increasing everywhere, but they are rising more in areas with more concrete and fewer trees. We’re also looking at those who don’t have adequate home cooling, or who work outside, or who have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat. We’re looking at the way that climate change and higher temperatures increases ozone pollution and wildfire smoke and the spread of new diseases. As we’ve seen with coronavirus, these health impacts hit our most vulnerable first. And our minority communities are often on the frontline, due to many structural factors and decades of systemic racism.
These are global issues, but the impact is local.
Food access is another important area of focus for our department. Eating healthy, fresh food is not something that should be reserved for the privileged. But those who struggle in getting enough to eat, and in eating healthy foods are often poor and are often people of color. This is also a structural challenge we are confronting every day.
Please know that we are dedicated to advancing equity and racial justice at the forefront of all the sustainability work we do. This includes actively listening and involving the people in our work who are most impacted. At the same time, we recognize that sustainability has been dominated by white bodies and white privilege. We are at the center of government and it’s a reminder of how much further we have to go. We too are practicing and learning what anti-racism means.
We’re humbled to continue the conversation and are grateful for your feedback.
Luckily, more and more Utahns are investing in electric vehicles (EV). Based on the number of unique charging sessions at Salt Lake City Corporation’s 36 Level 2 public EV stations (not including those at the Airport), there has been an exciting uptick in EV use in Salt Lake City.
In 2019, there were 21,371 unique charging sessions (meaning a car charged for longer than 5 minutes) at Salt Lake City public stations, compared to 12,870 in 2018.
Salt Lake City is following the national trend of growing EV use. According to the Edison Electric Institute, there are close to 1.5 million EVs being driven in the U.S. as of December 2019. Utah has seen its share grow to approximately 2% of total vehicles now comprised of electric, plug-in electric, or hybrid vehicles, and we want to continue pushing that number higher.
Support Fellow EV Drivers: Don’t Hog the Charging Stations
Salt Lake City is pleased to see that charging sessions have increased significantly since the stations were initially installed. Up until now, Salt Lake City has not had to enforce the charging time limit. However, because more people are using the stations, drivers need to be mindful of their fellow EV users and respect the time limit.
In 2017, 1,500 sessions exceeded the time limit. That number has grown to 4,600 in 2019. While these only represent a small portion of the total charging sessions (80% of sessions were within the limit), it is still an inconvenience for other drivers who may need to fuel up.
Due to the growing demand for charging stations, the time limits will be actively enforced beginning March 9. Please be courteous to your fellow EV drivers and be mindful of the time limit. Drivers who exceed the posted time limit may be ticketed $75.
Vehicle charging usage may be monitored via the ChargePoint cloud system to determine if a vehicle has overstayed the posted parking time limit.
The public may also report potential EV stall overstays to the Compliance main line at 801-535-6628.
Although electric cars still rely on electricity which is not (yet) wholly derived from renewable resources, they are still cleaner than gas-powered cars. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average gasoline-only car produces 381 grams of CO2e per mile, while the plug-in hybrid produces only 191 grams and a battery EV produces only 123.
The Clear the Air Challenge is a little more than halfway over. This month, we’ve been inspired to see more of our friends and colleagues carpooling, walking, biking, and taking public transit to get around Salt Lake City.
Transportation emissions cause nearly 50% of the pollutantsthatbecome trapped in our airshed during inversions, so finding ways to get out of the car makes a difference!
That also why Salt Lake City continues to invest in programs that make using transit easier and more affordable for residents.
In 2018, the City passed a sales tax and bond initiative called Funding our Future, with the goal of increasing funding to support public safety, street repair, better transit service, and greater housing opportunities.
A robust transit system is the backbone of a thriving community. It also supports the city’s goal of curbing carbon emissions and clearing the air, so we are grateful that Salt Lake City voters supported it!
After significant public outreach, the first phase of the transit expansion began in August 2019.
Three east-west UTA bus routes were enhanced to provide more transit, for more people, with more convenience and reliability.
What does “Frequent Transit Network” mean?
Very simply, it means buses that run every 15 minutes during peak times, with early-morning, later-night, and Sunday service. That means you can rely on these lines to get you where you need to go, on your schedule.
Critically, these lines also offer key east-west connectivity, which is an enhancement to the Salt Lake City transportation network. These routes are the 2, 9, and 21 routes.
Routes 2 (200 S), 9 (900 S), and 21 (2100 S) now provide:
Are you ready for a new challenge? How about one that will help you save money, burn calories, and improve our air quality? Salt Lake City employees are already on board and want to invite you to join the 2020 Clear the Air Challenge. During the month of February, keep our air clear of pollutants by limiting your driving!
You can aim to reduce your “driving-alone” trips every day in February, or pick a goal that’s manageable for you. It all helps!
Since 2009, Utahns have been participating in the month-long Clear the Air Challenge. During February, when air quality in Utah is historically bad, participants track their trips with the goal of avoiding single-occupancy vehicle travel and reducing air pollution. Participantscarpool, bike, walk, telecommute, trip chain, take public transit, drive electric vehicles, and ride electric bikes or scooters– all to help clear the air!
In 2019, participants in the Clear the Air Challenge eliminated 84,421 single-occupancy vehicle trips. This saved 1,244,624 miles of traveling and $0.4 Million! Together, all these efforts reduced 359.8 tons of CO2!
This year, the Clear the Air Challenge needs everyone’s help to reach the goal of eliminating 100,000 single-occupant trips.
Clear the Air to Protect Our Health
Winters in Utah can be beautiful, but when inversion starts, polluted air gets caught in our valleys. PM 2.5 and other pollutants threaten our health the well-being of our communities.
On bad air days, our activity is limited. Moreover, children, older adults, and people with heart diseases or respiratory problems are at a higher risk for suffering from poorer health due to bad air. Poor air quality is associated with a range of negative impacts including pregnancy loss, premature death, child asthma, and increased cases of pneumonia.
In Salt Lake City, nearly 50% of air pollution comes from cars, trucks, and other vehicles. That’s why the Clear the Air Challenge is more important than ever.
Each participating department has its own team. Salt Lake City employees live all over the Wasatch Front. Many of us take public transit to work every day. Others carpool or bike. For the month of February, we’re doing all we can to cut back on our single occupancy car rides!
Thanks to the recent public transit expansions, the robust network of bike paths for the sunny days, as well as the Clear the Air Challenge app’s handy carpool guide, the Clear the Air Challenge will make February an exciting and competitive month!
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.
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.)
Electric vehicles can improve our health and our economy. That’s why electrification of our transportation system is an important focus of SLCgreen’s activities. EVs are one of the most important tools for cleaning our air, improving the health of our citizens, strengthening our economy, and reducing our carbon footprint.
Market projections show that electric vehicles sales are increasing, and will soon take over as the standard form of single-passenger travel in the U.S.
In Salt Lake City, we hope to be ahead of the curve for electric vehicle adoption, as we know how much it benefits the health of our citizens and strengthens our economy.
With support from the City Council and Mayor Biskupski, we have installed a number of SLC Corporation owned and operated charging stations throughout the city. We are also committed to cleaning up our energy grid, making EVs an even cleaner option!
We are working hard to provide comprehensive and accessible information for SLC residents on electric transportation. You may have heard our interns talking about EVs at community events, and we write about EVs on our blog a lot! However, we felt it was time to provide a one-stop-shop for EV information.
On this page, you will find our Electric Transportation Roadmap, how EVs help the environment, charging information, links to our partner organizations, and more. We hope all our readers will understand why swift EV adoption is an important part of our initiatives after visiting our webpage.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office with questions, concerns, or comments about electrified transportation in Salt Lake City. You can find us at email@example.com.
EVs are a key part of our commitment to a healthier, cleaner, and more equitable city.
Air quality, air quality, air quality…will we ever stop talking about it? Until our air is consistently clean and no longer putting our health and economy at risk, probably not.
Talking about air pollution is important to us here at
SLCgreen, not only because of how harmful it is to our health but also because
of how expensive it is.
Let’s face it: bad air is damaging our economy. And not just in Utah. Air pollution in the U.S. costs the nation at least $131 billion in damages annually, including higher healthcare costs. Globally, the cost of pollution-related death, sickness, and welfare is $4.6 trillion per year, which is about 6.2% of the global economy.
Let’s talk about why that is and what can be done about it.
We talk a lot about electric vehicles at SLCgreen (seriously – check it out).
That’s because they’re one of the critical pieces of transitioning our community to a lower carbon footprint (and they’re pretty fun to drive too).
Therefore, over the last several years, SLCgreen has developed policies to promote electric vehicle adoption in the community at large and in our government fleet.
But this support is not without substantive research and justification.
While EVs are a key part of the puzzle, they’re not a panacea to climate change or our air quality problems. Other forms of transportation (biking, walking, riding the bus or train) and good urban planning are just as important.
Today, however, we are taking a deep dive on a common question regarding electric vehicles– just how clean are they?
Since 1974, June 5th has been a day for global action to protect the environment. Celebrated in over 100 countries, the UN’s World Environment Day raises awareness on urgent issues such as plastic pollution, sustainable consumption, wildlife crime, and climate change. The day empowers people around the world to create change as individuals and communities. This year’s host country, China, is bringing attention to a pressing global crisis: air pollution.
Here in Utah, we have our own struggles with air quality — mainly with seasonal issues such as PM2.5 pollution in the winter and ozone pollution in the summer. Across the Beehive State, air pollution leads to increased illness. Salt Lake City and other communities statewide are working to improve air quality and the State’s Department of Air Quality has led many efforts over the years to reduce pollution.
But more is needed.
In honor of #WorldEnviornmentDay and the goal to #BeatAirPollution, here are some easy ways we can all be part of the effort to improve indoor and outdoor air quality.