Over the past several months, I have pointed out the problems that polluted air can cause and in much of my writing, I have presented information on programs that would, in my view, be effective in helping to mitigate air pollution if followed through on. Many have been – followed through on, that is – and are either getting or have gotten results.
With air pollution in many places already at high concentrations, and having reached unacceptable levels in others, considerable attention now is focused on finding effective ways of mitigating it. Since air pollution really knows no boundaries, this is a worldwide problem.
Also over the past several months, I have written quite a number of times on transportation and commute issues as they relate to air quality matters. That discourse continues today. The reason this is so important in my view – and important to me – is due not to the fact that the transportation sector is the biggest contributor of pollution emissions – which it is not; transportation is second to energy which is the biggest, it is instead because significant headway is being made regarding emissions reductions in the remaining sectors while emissions from transportation are increasing. With each additional vehicle, locomotive, vessel and plane introduced into the mix, unless emissions-free or less environmentally impacting, relatively speaking, this will only add to the dilemma.
That said, let’s talk metro travel.
Car vs. bus vs. train
Travel ease or convenience (and reach) being central to this discussion, congestion, in my opinion, is probably the single biggest factor in metro travel mode selection. Secondary to that I feel is cost. Subordinate to this is quite possibly accessibility and/or comfort and/or safety and/or reliability followed lastly by what I believe is a concern over what impact mode choice may have on the environment and public health. Since this is an opinionated position – mine, some may disagree.
Angie Schmitt at DC.Streetsblog.org in her July 5, 2013 essay: “Salt Lake City: How a Remote Red-State City Became a Transit Leader” writes: “It’s number one in the nation in per-capita transit spending. The only city in the country building light rail, bus rapid transit, streetcars and commuter rail at the same time. And that city – Salt Lake City – is a town of just over 180,000 in a remote setting in a red state.”
By all appearances based on Schmitt’s declaration, Salt Lake City is taking public transit seriously, while, at the same time, public transit seems to be taking Salt Lake City by storm.
So, what’s behind all the interest?
Some might attribute that to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. That may have been a part of it but certainly not the only part.
“In 1997, leaders in a 10-county region centered on Salt Lake County set out to see what people valued about where they lived,” Schmitt wrote. “They designed a plan around those values, with a communications campaign to support it. At that time, the state was expected to grow by a million people by 2020. Rather than cede that growth to meandering sprawl, the region chose something more orderly and compact.”
And another key outcome of that investigation?
“Project leaders discovered Utahns liked the idea of transit more than they expected,” Schmitt noted.
Moreover, “A recent study found the Salt Lake City transit system offers better job access than that of any other city in the country. Regional leaders also point to studies that show local economic growth has been more equitable than elsewhere in the U.S., with gains across many income levels.”
Area air quality improved too, according to Schmitt.
And add to this that today, seven-in-ten Salt Lake City-area residents reside no farther than three miles from any light rail stop.
So, with transportation emissions worldwide on the rise, Salt Lake City, Utah is indeed one bright spot in an otherwise somewhat gloomy-looking realm – the reduction of emissions from transportation.