Earlier this spring we experienced a period of clean air due to lock-downs put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Salt Lake City’s summer air quality has been recently impacted by smoke from nearby and regional wildfires, as well as from higher ozone pollution that is typical in the summer.
Bad air quality threatens everyone’s health, particularly those with sensitive respiratory systems. The effects of bad air even have the potential to make COVID-19 even worse.Your lungs are already irritated and inflamed due to pollution, and this makes them more susceptible to infections like COVID.
Ironically, the pandemic – coupled with rising temperatures caused by climate change – are also behind the record number of human-caused fires in Utah. The feedback loop linking pandemic, fires, and bad air is disturbing, but there are ways we can take actions to help protect the air.
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.
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!
With a week of air that has been some of the worst in the country, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling frustrated. Salt Lake City’s current air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and requires mandatory action of limited driving and no wood burning. For most of us, Salt Lake City’s notoriously bad air is a nuisance and health concern, limiting our activities and turning our skyline grey. Moreover, pollutants like PM 2.5 are dangerous, especially for older residents, children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Air quality is a public health concern, as well as an economic one.
It may come as a surprise that although transportation currently contributes nearly half of the emissions causing Salt Lake City’s bad air, buildings are catching up. Indeed, houses and buildings currently contribute roughly 38% of emissions, and industry point sources produce the other 13%. As emissions standards on cars are becoming more strict, managing emissions from houses and buildings is a growing priority.
PM 2.5 is the primary winter concern in Salt Lake City’s airshed. The particulate matter poses serious health risks and gets trapped in the Salt Lake valley during inversion. Most of the PM 2.5 is a direct result of precursor emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks, and chemicals that mix to form PM 2.5 in the atmosphere.
When you look outside, it may feel like there’s no good news. However, per capita pollution in Utah is decreasing. Salt Lake City is taking steps to help clean the air and protect our public health and environment. Find out how you can keep our airshed (and lungs!) clean and healthy.
What is SLC doing?
Reducing combustion and emissions are a key step towards cleaning the air.
Salt Lake City has many air quality initiatives in place that are helping clean the air. Among these include the continued expansion of EV infrastructure, expanding cleaner vehicles in our fleet, and implementing our energy benchmarking ordinance for nearly 1,000 commercial buildings. Additionally, the HIVE pass provides residents with access to UTA’s public transit system at a reduced cost.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
EVs are a key part of our commitment to a healthier, cleaner, and more equitable city.
Salt Lake City recently unveiled the latest electric vehicle (EV) public charging infrastructure.
These stations increase the total number of City-owned public EV charging ports to 38 plus 16 at the Airport, and complement an even more robust charging network available throughout the city.
The newest Level 2 EV charging ports opened last month at three separate Salt Lake City locations: Mountain Dell Golf Course, the Regional Athletic Complex, and on-street parking on 500 South, just south of The Leonardo.
“Electrifying transportation is one of the most meaningful ways we can tackle air quality problems in the Salt Lake Valley,” said Mayor Biskupski. “The City applauds the many residents and businesses investing in electric vehicles and is pleased to offer charging opportunities for these clean air champions.”
Funding for the project was provided in part by a grant from the Utah Division of Air Quality, building off the initial installation of 28 ports in 2017.
It’s only mid-December but we’ve already had a few inversions– and the dirty air they trap– this season.
Luckily this week’s winter storm has cleared out the inversion and the worst of the poor air, but it’s a reminder of why it’s all the more important to be mindful of how we can each reduce our contribution to the muck.
Because transportation accounts for 48% of the air pollution we see on any given wintertime inversion day, choosing cleaner ways to get around is one of the most impactful steps we as individuals can take
With that in mind, we’d like to share a couple of exciting options that are available right now to promote more sustainable travel.
Hive Pass Discounts
Salt Lake City residents can apply for the HIVE pass. The Salt Lake City program, in partnership with UTA, offers easier access to mass transit by reducing the cost of the monthly adult pass by 50%.
The Roadmap outlines how local governments can implement a variety of electric powered modes of transit including electric vehicles (EVs), e-bikes, electric transit, and electrified ridesharing.
Salt Lake City has integrated a number of these best practices into our internal operations, and we’re now working toward more community-scale projects as part of our Climate Positive SLC plan.
As the capital city’s sustainability department, we also believe it’s important to share what we’ve learned with other local governments.
That’s the idea behind the Roadmap—as well as a workshop we organized March 14 with representatives from 16 local governments across the Wasatch Front to talk about best practices and to view EV options from a variety of local dealers. Read more