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Clear the Air Challenge: Planning, Transportation Choices Protect Air Quality

By Andrew Gruber, Guest Blogger

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

Several years ago, my family and I made the decision to move to Utah. There were a number of reasons for this, but the most important factor was the outstanding quality of life in this state. Utahns enjoy unparalleled access to natural beauty and a strong economy.

Utah is a great place to live, work, and play, but the greatest challenge we face is growth — Utah’s population is set to nearly double over the next 35 years. That means nearly twice as much travel, more goods and services to be delivered, more employees commuting to work, and more errands to run. That additional travel could mean more emissions from vehicles. Currently, emissions from vehicles account for about half of the pollutants in our air.

As we grow, we face the challenge of keeping our families and our economy moving while preserving our great quality of life, and a big part of that is having clean air to breathe.

As the Executive Director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, I work daily with my colleagues to plan for a better future that provides transportation choices to residents across the Wasatch Front. By providing choices for how people get around, where people can drive or carpool but also can hop on the bus, take FrontRunner or TRAX, ride a bike to work, or walk, we can improve our air quality by reducing vehicle-related emissions.

In addition to providing more transportation choices in the way we plan for our future, technology also plays a role. Our cars and fuels are becoming cleaner. Through dedicated effort and collaboration in this state, we expect to have a cleaner fleet of vehicles and fuels in the coming years.

This chart displays the reductions we expect in total vehicle emissions over the decades to come:

Wasatch Front Area Vehicle Emissions - PM 2.5
Photo Credit: Wasatch Front Regional Council

Some of this is long-term. But what can we do today?

This month, we all have an opportunity to make a difference in reducing emissions by participating in the Clear the Air Challenge. This annual event is a tremendous opportunity to reevaluate how we get where we’re going and how to make a difference.

My family and I are competing in the Challenge, rethinking the ways we get around by carpooling, riding a bike to nearby events, telecommuting, and taking transit as often as possible. Every choice we make helps reduce emissions and improve our air quality.

I invite all Utahns to join me in “driving down your trips” this July by taking the Clear the Air Challenge. Sign up at cleartheairchallenge.org and make a difference today.
Andrew Gruber

I moved to Utah five years ago after years of vacationing and visiting family in Utah. I’m the Executive Director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, where I work with local elected officials and transportation agencies to develop long-range plans for our region’s future, including air quality. I’m a member of Governor Herbert’s Clean Air Action Team, the UCAIR Board of Directors, and Envision Utah. I love spending my free time hiking, biking, skiing, and camping with my family and friends in Utah’s great outdoors.

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