By Donna Kemp Spangler
As promised in my last month’s blog, I parked my beloved convertible and faithfully took transit to work each and every day.
It wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. It didn’t stop me from meeting deadlines, disrupt my schedule, or slow me down all that much. Forgoing the momentary spontaneity of having a vehicle at a moment’s notice was not burdensome. I experienced a friendly, courteous UTA staff and clean and comfortable transit rides.
My commute from my Ogden home to DEQ’s Salt Lake City office consisted of a FrontRunner ride with a connection to the TRAX airport line, with a stop at the 1950 West North Temple station—adding roughly 35 minutes more to a one-way commute. During the month, I finished three novels, completed some work-related tasks, and met some great folks who live in my Ogden community. The rides home were quite a treat as I was able to tune out the distractions of the day by either reading a book or listening to music. By the time I made it home I was much more relaxed than being stuck in rush-hour traffic.
There were some downsides, too, as my husband points out. The daily tasks of picking up groceries and dry-cleaning and running other errands—which I had normally done when driving home—fell to him. (Not having to worry about those tasks was perhaps one reason I was so much more relaxed when I arrived home!)
This experience was all part of the statewide Clear the Air Challenge, a friendly month-long competition sponsored by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and embraced by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who challenged all state agencies to participate.
The Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Department of Health, and Utah Department of Workforce Services made it known they were going to dethrone Utah Department of Environmental Quality—last year’s runaway winner—as the top state agency to reduce the most single-occupant vehicle (SOV) trips and commuter miles.
Kudos to Workforce Services who managed to beat DEQ by more than 3,300 non-SOV trips. Workforce Services Director Jon S. Pierpont successfully rallied his staff to take on the challenge, and they set a high bar for DEQ’s comeback next year.
Workforce Services’ win is undeniably impressive. But I am even more impressed with DEQ Director Amanda Smith. On one particularly hot July day she rode her bike wearing dress slacks and high-heels. That deserves extra points.
Of course, the real winner is Utah’s air quality. My personal stats accounted for a total of 1,750 non-SOV miles. Participants logged more than 2.2 million alternative miles (e.g., biking, walking, carpooling, riding transit, trip chaining), sparing a combined 668 tons of smog-forming pollutants from fouling Utah’s air. Top participating organizations included Utah’s business community: Fidelity Investments, Goldman Sachs, Questar, Overstock, and L3 Communications. Although not a direct competitor, the Utah Department of Public Safety rose to the top ranks, along with the University of Utah and the Salt Lake County Health Department.
Using mass transit was fun for me, and my commitment will certainly extend beyond the July challenge as I take public transit to work more often.
Visit DEQ’s air quality webpages for current conditions and forecasts, or download the UtahAir app on your smartphone. Consider the benefits of carpooling, riding transit or teleworking during voluntary air action days. I also encourage everyone to visit our clean air partner, Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR), for simple tips on how to improve Utah’s air quality one day at a time.
I am the Communications Director for DEQ and write a monthly blog post.
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