My Own Clear Air Challenge: Riding Transit All Month Long

By Donna Kemp Spangler

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of posts—published every Wednesday during July—of what DEQ employees are doing to reduce emissions during the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge.

When FrontRunner arrived in Ogden in 2008, my goal had been to commute from Ogden to my DEQ office in Salt Lake City, using transit at least once a week. The opening of the TRAX extension to the airport a few years later made it faster and more convenient to get to my office from the FrontRunner station. And by and large, my initial goal of once a week has been achieved with minimal effort.

There are the obvious benefits to ditching the car:

  • It saves me about $10 in fuel for each round trip, and,
  • It reduces air pollution (vehicle emissions are the biggest source of air pollution).

I have found it to be an easy choice when the air is especially bad, when weather makes driving treacherous, when my car isn’t running, or when my husband is headed to Salt Lake and we can carpool.

But the reality is that most days I allow riding transit to take a back seat to the convenience of having a ride home at the turn of a key. And given my hectic schedule of meetings, I wonder if it’s even possible to exist in a sprawling community like the Wasatch Front without a vehicle.

It will be an interesting experiment: My personal challenge is to commute not using my car for the entire month of July—and I so love my convertible in the summertime—no exceptions! My colleague, Bob Ford, who oversees DEQ’s asbestos program, is doing the same by parking his car and riding his bike. And as “CleanAirBob” would say, “If Bob can do it, I can do it.”

My experiment is part of the statewide Clear the Air Challenge, a friendly competition sponsored by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and embraced by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who has challenged all state agencies to participate.

The Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Department of Health have each challenged DEQ to a competition to see which department can save the most trips and with the greatest reduction in commuter miles.

To my friends at UDOT and the Health Department I say give it your best shot. DEQ welcomes the challenge.

Based on statistics from last year’s challenge, DEQ employees collectively recorded nearly 40,500 total miles in reduced commuter miles—a total that accounts for almost half of the all miles saved by employees with 16 state agencies participating. And we are one of the smallest agencies in the state in terms of employees.

This year, we all will be recording our progress with a new interface that makes it easier for everyone to track the miles they have saved on their mobile devices or desktop computers. This technology is available to all Utahns, thanks to a $25,000 grant from Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR).

Mass Transit

The biggest benefit from the challenge will be improved air quality by reducing air pollution through fewer commuter trips each day. And we hope for a heightened awareness that each and every commuter can make choices that will collectively improve the air we breathe.

DEQ is the reigning champions of the challenge. Care to take us on? Register for the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge, if you haven’t done so yet, and discover how you can make a difference. Come back to this blog next month and find out how I did.

I am the Communications Director for DEQ and write a monthly blog.

Contact our PIO at with further questions.