How the 2014 General Session impacted business

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The Utah business community commends the Utah legislature for another great year for business. The 2014 General Session wrapped up in March, and the newly released Salt Lake Chamber 2014 Legislative Scorecard highlights how the business community’s policy priorities fared.

“Utah’s economy 
is in a spectacular position because
 of the leadership 
of our Governor, Legislature and
 our great business community working together to bring compromise for important progress for our state,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.

The Salt Lake Chamber Vote website monitored the course of 298 bills that had an impact on business through the legislative session. Through that website tool, more than 9,800 emails were sent to state representatives, asking them to act on policy decisions. Eleven of 13 business community priority bills passed, and the average of “yes” votes on priority bills stood at 83 percent. With a 93 percent passage of supported bills, 2014 was an excellent year for Utah’s business community.

Here’s what the Utah’s Legislature helped accomplish this year:

STRENGTHENED COMMITMENT TO EDUCATION

•  Provided $62 million to public education, increasing the weighted pupil unit by 2.5 percent and
another $62 million to fund 10,300 new students
• Invested toward goal of 66 percent of adults with a postsecondary degree or certificate, providing $50 million to equalize funding and increase capacity in our state’s higher education institutions
• Expanded efforts to reach goals of 90 percent proficiency in reading and math among Utah students, allocating more than $7 million for preschool and early intervention programs for at-risk children, and $20 million to STEM education

ENHANCED COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY

• Approved a multi-decade effort to support the development of a convention center hotel, benefiting
the entire state
• Authorized $400,000 in business marketing, corporate recruitment and business expansion efforts, as well as $15 million in tourism marketing
• Addressed critical community issues through investing $100,000 to incentivize employers to hire the homeless
• Tackled issues of panhandling and solicitation around Utah’s highways and sidewalks that negatively impact the ability to conduct business in a safe manner
• Partnered to fund $400,000 for the Your Utah, Your Future quality growth initiative

ACTED TO IMPROVE AIR QUALITY

• Funded a $500,000 air quality education campaign
• Provided $1 million in scientific research to help better understand the causes of air pollution
• Established a $200,000 fund to help small businesses reduce air emissions through new technologies and programs
• Created a $250,000 fund to incentivize the conversion of sole-source wood burning homes to cleaner energy heating
• Addressed mobile emissions through enabling enhanced infrastructure for electric vehicles,
providing tax credits to purchase alternative fuel vehicles and mandating 50 percent of the State’s vehicle fleet to be highly efficient vehicles by 2015

ESTABLISHED PLATFORM FOR FUTURE ACTION

• Jump-started a robust conversation to address both the $11.3 billion funding gap outlined in the 2040 Unified Transportation Plan and the significant need for increased education funding
• Moved toward improving Utah’s air quality and set the stage for further discussions on issues such as Tier 3 fuels and improving statewide transit systems

The 2014 Legislative Scorecard also has a bill-by-bill tally of priority bills and their impacts on Utah business. To see the PDF of the 2014 Legislative Scorecard, click here

 

UCAIR launches the Clean Air Assist Program

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Clean air is a problem that everyone can address. Now there’s a little more help for small businesses to make a difference in Utah’s air quality.

The Department of Workforce Services (DWS), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) have partnered to provide grants to small businesses to upgrade their current equipment to emission reducing equipment and improve air quality.

Small businesses can be awarded grants between $500 and $15,000. This grant program is available for businesses with less than 100 employees that are located in Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Duchesne, Salt Lake, Tooele, Uintah, Utah and Weber Counties.

Application Process:

Go to the UCAIR website www.ucair.org for information about UCAIR and the Air Assist Program application information. For questions about the program and individual help with the application process, please contact Gwen Springmeyer at 801.536.4218 or gwen@ucair.org.

There is no application deadline and no fees will be charged for the application.

Save a Drive: Cut down on driving and clear the air

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Clean air is something that the Salt Lake Chamber is a big supporter of. Air quality greatly affects our health, quality of life and our state’s economy. We must all do our part to ensure Utah’s air can stay clear.

One new effort by Deseret Management Corp. (DMC) this month is called “Save a Drive”, in which a  $100 winner will be picked daily from online readers who pledge to cut down on the miles they drive until the end of February. Readers of www.ksl.com and www.deseretnews.com, both part of DMC, can pledge to “Save A Drive” and will be entered in a daily drawing for $100 throughout the month of February.

“We live here and breathe the same air as our audience,” said Chris Lee, president of Deseret Digital Media, part of DMC. “Our employees and our management all feel that we should do everything we can to build awareness and encourage solutions to this problem.”

The Deseret News print edition is also embracing the initiative by including tips on how readers can improve air quality at the top of their front page on inversion days.

“We’ll also let readers know the forecast health level for the day and explain that readers can go online to make their reduced-driving pledges,” said Dave Schneider, Deseret News assistant managing editor.

“We have learned more than half of of the pollution problems are caused by tailpipes on cars,” Lee said. “By saving a drive, each of us can help improve the air quality and if each of us will do a little a little bit, that will help a lot.”

“We do a lot of awareness building through our reporting in print, radio, television and online,” Lee said. “But this campaign is solution driven. We know this won’t solve the problem, but we are trying to stir solutions from the community. The creativity of how people save the drive is up to them.”

Lee said the digital campaign is the first by the corporation to link action with a monetary reward.

To combat the inversions this year, the Salt Lake Chamber implemented an Emergency Inversion Initiative to get businesses to take their efforts to the next level. We support and applaud our members to take steps to encourage their employees as well as the public to drive less, drive smarter and also implement more clean air practices in general.

 

OP-ED: Give Utah cities power to increase transit funding

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Editor’s note: This op-ed was written by A. Scott Anderson, CEO and president of Zions Bank, and published in the Deseret News here

Air quality is one of the biggest issues facing the 2014 legislative session. “Red Air” days damage our health and keep sensitive people from enjoying the outdoors. Poor air quality is also hurting Utah’s economic development and tourism.

Many groups, including the Salt Lake Chamber, are working to improve air quality, and progress is being made. The Legislature could take another significant step forward by giving local governments an important tool to help clean the air along the Wasatch Front. It is one of the simplest, yet highly effective, things lawmakers could do for clean air in this session.

The Legislature should lift the cap on local-option sales tax funding for public transit and transportation, giving local governments, and ultimately voters, an important tool they need to combat dirty air.

Many citizens and local leaders would like to expand transit services in their communities, making it more convenient and frequent, thus taking cars off roads and improving air quality. But some counties are at the limit of what they can ask voters to approve for public transit, so they need the Legislature to lift the cap. Any additional funding would require approval by voters in an election.

In providing this critical tool, the Legislature would not be increasing taxes, or even authorizing a vote on taxes. They would simply be giving local leaders — and voters — some flexibility in combating dirty air. Local leaders, along with citizens, could decide if air quality and mobility are important enough to ask voters if they wish to increase sales tax funding for public transit. It would be entirely optional, and voters would have the final say.

We know that 57 percent of air pollution during inversions is emitted from vehicles. Less driving means better air quality. We know that increased use of public transit can make a real difference. Here are some facts:

· Transit currently takes more than 120,000 cars off Wasatch Front roads daily, the equivalent of more than 850,000 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) eliminated daily, netting about 1,500 tons of emissions eliminated annually.

· If Wasatch Front residents used transit instead of driving the equivalent of just one day per week for work and college trips, weekday ridership would triple, taking another 240,000 cars off the roads each day, saving 10 million VMT daily and reducing vehicle emissions by 3,000 tons annually.

· Across the entire Wasatch Front, transit accounts for about 5 percent (90,000) of total daily work and college trips. For every 1 percent increase, 16,000 new transit trips would be added, 14,000 vehicles would be removed from the roads each day, with more than 103,000 VMT eliminated daily and about 88 tons of emissions reduced annually.

If the Legislature lifts the cap, and citizens decide they want more public transit, then cities, counties, and Wasatch Front planning organizations are well-prepared to direct the Utah Transit Authority to use additional funding in ways that will significantly improve transit convenience and frequency, increasing ridership and helping improve air quality.

Improvements can come quickly. Studies and experience in other markets show that when buses come by more frequently, with more stops in more neighborhoods, with fewer required transfers, ridership increases significantly.

But increased transit frequency and convenience will require more investment. Most Wasatch Front peer regions (Denver, Dallas, Houston, Austin) fund their transit systems at the sales tax equivalent of a penny per dollar. Wasatch Front counties currently vary between 1/2 and 5/8 of a penny. If public transit was funded at a full cent, as recommended in the state’s Unified Transportation Plan, UTA could quickly increase service of existing bus and train lines, double ridership within a few years, and increase transit access for more than 275,000 additional households. Many high-use routes would see service every 10 to 15 minutes.

I’m not suggesting the Legislature raise taxes or even authorize a vote for more taxes. That would be left entirely to local governments and voters. Lifting the cap would provide this important tool to local governments. In the interest of improved air quality and mobility, I encourage lawmakers to do so.

Clear the Air Challenge awarded $25K grant by UCAIR

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

The Salt Lake Chamber is pleased to announce that the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR). This summer will mark the sixth year of the month-long clean air challenge.

“This grant from UCAIR will help us implement a new mobile interface that will improve how participants track the miles they save during the challenge,” said Ryan Evans, the Chamber’s vice president of Business and Community Relations. “Specifically, this new interface will use GPS technology to track miles saved, create a more efficient tracking process and hopefully significantly improve the results of our participants. We are also hopeful to use this new technology to drive more participants to the Challenge in the years to come.”

In 2013, the Chamber assumed management of the Clear the Air Challenge, leading what is considered the most successful year of the program to date. In its fifth year, 8,500 Utahns participated in the month-long campaign to drive less and drive smarter. More than 1.9 million miles and nearly 170,000 vehicle trips were eliminated, resulting in the removal of 1.6 million pounds of emissions from our air. In doing this, upwards of $1.1 million dollars were saved in vehicle costs. Those numbers are significant increases against all other years’ participation.

During the five years of the Clear the Air Challenge, the Challenge has seen approximately 20,000 participants, saved more than seven million miles and eliminated more than 600,000 vehicle trips. This year we aim to improve those numbers further, encouraging businesses, individuals and families to reconsider driving habits to help clear our air.

Utah’s business community and the Salt Lake Chamber consider air quality a top priority. The Chamber is working actively to engage business in helping clean Utah’s air. In addition to the Clear the Air Challenge, the Chamber encourages businesses to participate in the Clean Air Champions program as well as the new Inversion Mitigation Initiative.

UCAIR Grants

In total, UCAIR awarded $350,000 in grants to 13 organizations for funding education, energy/transportation and home retrofit projects to improve air quality. The funding was provided through UCAIR’s Grants program. The 13 organizations receiving UCAIR grant funding were chosen based on the measureable impact their program or project would provide toward reducing emissions at home, in the community and at work.

“UCAIR is focused on educating, encouraging and empowering everyone to take actions that can improve our air quality,” said Ted Wilson, UCAIR executive director. “We recognize that emissions-reducing and energy-efficient technologies are an investment, and our focus with this program is to help bridge the gap between having a great idea and fiscally being able to bring that idea to fruition.

“These 13 grant recipients presented projects and programs that will help to clear our air in both the short- and long-term. It is extremely rewarding to be able to support putting these into action.”

Other UCAIR grant recipients (along with their focus) include:

At Home

·     Breathe Utah, to change out five wood burning fireplaces in Wasatch Front households

In the Community

·     GREENbike, to install a new bike station at 250 S. 300 E., the first in a residential area
·     KUED, for the documentary “The Air We Breathe”
·     National Energy Foundation, to support an air quality debating program serving 5,000 students in grades 4 to 9
·     Provo City Municipal Council, to develop an educational kit for the city
·     Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, to support the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge
·     Salt Lake City Corporation, for its “Smart Trips” bus, bike, and S-Line streetcar program
·     University of Utah, for development of an air quality video game to be distributed to schools
·     Utah Clean Cities Coalition, for promoting idle free education
·     Utah Transit Authority (UTA), for its “Ride Clear” free rider pass program

At Work

·     Salt Lake County Government, for one electric vehicle charging station and in partnership with the Utah Office of Energy Development, an additional two electric vehicle-charging stations. The three stations will be part of a collaborative effort among the County, the State and private companies.
·     Utah Clean Energy, to conduct educational clean energy workshops for businesses and prepare Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financial packages for qualifying clean energy building upgrades

This is the inaugural year of the UCAIR Grants program. UCAIR has plans to award additional grants to mid-to-large businesses, government and non-profit organizations in 2014.

Additionally, the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) and in partnership with UCAIR is making grants available for small businesses through its new “Assist” program. These grants – totaling $1.3 million dollars through mid-2015 – will be available for small businesses with fewer than 100 employees to assist them in making federally mandated air-quality adjustments and improvements to reduce emissions. More details about applying for the small business grant will be available on UCAIR.org as the program is established.

About UCAIR

UCAIR is a statewide clean air partnership created to make it easier for individuals, businesses and communities to make small changes to improve Utah’s air. Every small change adds to a collective bigger step toward better health, a better economy and better overall quality of life for all of us.

The 2014 Public Policy Guide and business priorities released

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The Salt Lake Chamber released the business community’s priorities for the upcoming General Legislative Session within the 2014 Public Policy Guide. The Public Policy Guide was presented to the speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser Wednesday morning. The guide outlines the Chamber’s position on policy issues including economic development, education, transportation, water, energy and minerals, clean air, outdoor recreation and tourism, Downtown Rising, immigration, international competitiveness, and small business.

“The 2014 Public Policy Guide is a Chamber publication, but it represents the broad-based support of chambers of commerce across the state as well as other important business associations,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “These are the priorities of Utah’s diverse business sectors from across the state and it’s critical that we speak with one voice.”

View and download the 2014 Public Policy Guide PDF here.

Economic Development 
Economic development and job creation is the cornerstone priority for Utah’s business community. The 2014 Public Policy Guide highlights and supports the “Your Utah, Your Future” quality growth strategy, initiated by Gov. Gary Herbert and Envision Utah, in taking the long-term view on public policy issues. The guide also outlines priorities that will facilitate economic growth and strengthen the economy, including a continued stance against general tax increases not supported by the public, a commitment to eliminating harmful regulation and a collaborative challenge to enhance Utah’s competitiveness through attracting regional corporate headquarters to the state.

“Utah’s economy is extremely well-positioned for continued growth in 2014. The private-sector is set to accomplish the significant goal of creating 150,000 jobs since the recession–more than a year ahead of schedule,” said Natalie Gochnour, chief economist of the Salt Lake Chamber and associate dean of the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business. “However, Utah’s economy faces economic headwinds from our nation’s capital and risks economic hardship if we do not address our education system and transportation infrastructure.”

Prosperity 2020
An educated workforce has a direct correlation with economic prosperity and is a top priority for Utah’s business community. To be globally competitive, Utah must return to a top-10 state in overall education rankings. To meet this challenge, the Chamber outlines key priorities to improve: 4th grade reading scores; 8th grade math scores; high school completion and college and career readiness; innovative teaching in public education; and Utah’s ability to reach 66 percent of Utahns with postsecondary degrees or certificates.

“Investing in our children is the best investment we can make as a community,” said Alan Hall, Chair ofProsperity 2020, founder and co-managing director of Mercato Partners, and chairman of Marketstar. “Facing unprecedented growth, we need to ensure that the largest population of young people in the country will be deployed as the best educated workforce, propelling Utah to enduring prosperity.”

Prosperity 2020 and the business community, through school-business partnerships, can improve school environments and boost outcomes for students. In addition to advocacy, the Utah business community has developed partnerships that support our education system and improve outcomes. The guide highlights how businesses across the state are becoming directly involved in the educational success of Utah’s children through a myriad of partnerships, including tutoring students, volunteering in classrooms, sponsoring activities, advising programs of study, providing internships and funding scholarships.

“Utah’s business leaders understand the urgency of addressing our education challenges,” said Beattie. “As a strong backer of the Prosperity 2020 movement, we are very supportive of the priorities and commitment of the Legislature’s Education Taskforce and will work to make these policies a reality.”

Transportation
Recent completions of major transportation initiatives have made Utah a national example in our commitment to disciplined planning and investment in transportation infrastructure. As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, continued investments are critical to economic growth and accommodating future generations of Utahns.

“Our community continues to rapidly grow,” said H. David Burton, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition.  “We must act now to ensure future generations can enjoy economic prosperity and a high quality of life.”

The guide outlines support for a five-year action plan to fully fund Utah’s prioritized transportation needs identified in Utah’s 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. This action plan includes allowing local governments to address their urgent transportation challenges, investments to improve our transit system, and a call for the expansion and inflation-adjustment of user fees to meet critical needs.

“Investments in transportation infrastructure benefit every aspect of our economy,” said David Golden, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition, and executive vice president and manager of Wells Fargo Commercial Banking Group’s Mountain Division. “The need for investment is critical and requires immediate action in order to sustain and enhance our world-class business and economic climate.”

Natural Resource Business Council
Utah’s spectacular natural environment is a legacy passed to us from preceding generations and is a key component of the state’s economy and high quality of life. The guide is the debut of the Chamber’s Natural Resource Business Council, which represents a comprehensive approach to the state’s natural environment and important sectors of Utah’s economy. The Chamber’s clean air and energy and minerals task forces, as well as two new Chamber initiatives in Water and Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, are organized under the Council.

“Utah’s natural resources provide Utah families with unparalleled life quality and economic opportunities,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “We owe future generations our best stewardship efforts to ensure they enjoy the same advantages we now enjoy.”

The Natural Resource Business Council priorities include developing a long-term vision on Utah’s water needs, enhancing rural economic development, improving transportation options to Utah’s energy rich Uinta Basin, supporting Utah’s tourism marketing and addressing air quality issues.

Specifically, the guide highlights the Chamber’s support for: the PM2.5 State Implementation Plan, increased transportation funding to improve our transit system and reduce idling on Utah’s roadways, cleaner vehicles, increased efforts for public awareness and research, and incentives to facilitate small businesses’ participation in emission reductions.

“Air quality for many Utahns’ is the state’s most pressing issue,” said Beattie. “Clean air makes good business sense and the Utah business community is committed to being a champion for improving our air quality.”

The 2014 Public Policy guide is available online at www.slchamber.com/PPG2014.

Here are some photos from the event where we presented speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser:

SLC & UTA Encourage Residents to Help Improve Air Quality With New Transit Program

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Editor’s note: This article was written by EDCUtah and was originally published on the Utah Pulse

Just in time for inversion season, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Utah Transit Authority General Manager Michael Allegra have announced a partnership offering city residents discounted passes to make riding transit more affordable.

It’s a move that would help improve air quality by minimizing the number of regular car trips.

That’s good news for Wasatch Front air quality, as vehicle emissions account for more than half of the air pollution that gets trapped along the Wasatch Front during our winter inversions. Under the pilot plan, which begins in early 2014 and is modeled after bulk pass programs offered by UTA, Salt Lake City residents will be eligible to purchase one-year transit passes for $360. That translates to $30 a month, giving residents the option to ride UTA buses, TRAX or FrontRunner rather than drive. The city is paying $150,000 to administer the program.

UTA and Salt Lake City are banking on at least 6,000 residents purchasing the passes. But how much of a difference will it make in our air quality? With 6,000 or more participants, the program has the potential to eliminate about 10,290,000 miles per year and an estimated 30 tons of pollutants from the air.

The key to the program, says UTA Senior Media Relations Specialist Remi Barron, is for 6,000 or more Salt Lake City residents to sign up. “We are optimistic the program will work out fine and continue on, but it is a one-year pilot program right now,” he notes. “UTA is interested to see how popular the program is and how the numbers work out. This is all stuff that hasn’t been done before.”

Offering incentivized use of mass transit to improve air quality is a novel idea UTA hopes other cities will be interested in as well. Studies show that by having transit passes in their pockets, residents are more likely to utilize mass transit. According to data from Salt Lake City, residents could break even on their transit investments by replacing car travel with six round trips per month on UTA transit systems. There would be no limit on the number of passes purchased per household, and residents can pay for the passes all at once or in installments of $30 per month, charged to their utility bills. (Ski bus, Park City Connect and paratransit services will be excluded from the pass.)

If the program receives the required support from city residents, it could become a sustainable piece of Salt Lake City’s efforts to improve the air quality. “We hope everyone will jump on board and take advantage of this pass,” Becker said during the announcement last month.

“UTA’s goal is to get a pass in everyone’s pocket,” added Allegra. “This is an innovative approach where a city is investing its resources to make transit passes available to all its residents. If the one-year pilot is successful, UTA hopes to refine and expand the program to other communities.”

EDCUtah President and CEO Jeff Edwards lauds the partnership as another example of Utahns working together. “Poor air quality can be a turn-off for economic development. It also diminishes our quality of life and drives up our health care costs,” he says. “We appreciate Salt Lake City leaders for being innovative in addressing our air quality challenges and making UTA’s transit systems an affordable alternative for city residents.”

Salt Lake Chamber Executive Vice President Marty Carpenter calls the residential transit program a win-win for air quality and city residents. “We’ve made wise investments in our transportation infrastructure, and that’s helped us in a number of ways,” he says. “Innovative programs like this will help more people see the benefit of our investment and help improve our air quality.”

Barron notes that UTA is also holding an open house on Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the North Salt Lake City Hall to get ideas and opinions from Davis County residents on the future of transit between south Davis County and downtown Salt Lake City.

UTA is partnering with Bountiful City, City of North Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, Davis County and the Wasatch Front Regional Council to conduct an Alternatives Analysis (AA) study to better understand current and future transit needs of people living in southern Davis County through the planning horizon of 2040.

Clean air is Chamber business

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Clean air makes good business sense and the business community will be a significant part of the solution. The Salt Lake Chamber is leading a nationally acclaimed initiative to promote and recognize voluntary clean air practices for business. But that’s not all, we support efforts to promote the importance of clean air to the Utah economy and its impact on the state’s economic development efforts.

Here are some of the Chamber’s efforts to bring awareness and to help improve Utah’s air quality:

Clean Air Champions -  A private sector initiative that highlights and promotes clean air best practices from Utah companies, which in most cases show a bottom line benefit as well.  This program was featured last year as one of the 10 most innovative chamber programs promoting energy efficiency and cleaner energy by Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, a national association with approximately 400 chambers as members.

Clear the Air Challenge -  The Salt Lake Chamber assumed management of this community program that engaged nearly 9,000 Utahns last July and in five years the Challenge has seen approximately 20,000 participants, saved more than seven million miles and eliminated more than 600,000 vehicle trips.

Clean Air Summit - The Business Case for Clean Air is coming up tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 5.  This is an annual event that features a panel of speakers educating attendees on various aspects of the air quality conversation and several breakout sessions where individual topics are explored in more depth.  The event draws an average of 100 business professionals each year. Click here if you’d like to join us.

Clean Air Task Force -  The Chamber hosts a monthly meeting that educates committee members on various causes and potential solutions to our air quality problem.  The group has developed many programs to help businesses better engage in air quality and help them do their part, including an educational campaign that is presented at company and business association meetings, the Clean Air Champions program, The Clean Air Summit, and Air Quality 101- a booklet on the realities of air quality.  The group also makes recommendations on public policy that could help improve our air quality.  Jonathan Johnson, executive vice chairman of Overstock.com, chairs this group.

As a shared public resource, our air quality is susceptible to the “tragedy of the commons” that occurs when rational choices by individuals—choosing to benefit from a community resource—damage the common resource. In the greater Salt Lake area, more than half of the pollutant particles in the air come from motor vehicles.

We all have a role in keeping our air clean. Business, citizens and government share our roads and each should do its part to drive cleaner and smarter.

Chamber applauds SLC-UTA programs to increase transit ridership

Friday, October 4th, 2013

This morning, the Salt Lake Chamber took part in a news conference to announce a program to help Salt Lake City residents take advantage of transit opportunities. The program would increase the number of riders, provide reduced fare and have an impact in several important policy areas to strengthen our economy.

Chamber Executive Vice President Marty Carpenter told reporters there are two things the business community appreciates: when a great deal comes together so everyone wins and maximization of the return on an investment.

He says this agreement between SLC and UTA will further increase already strong ridership and will help more SLC residents utilize a world class transportation system.

As for maximizing ROI… that usually makes people think of the bottom line dollar amount–the profit. But that’s not always the case. The return on our investment in our transit system is greater than that, touching transportation (relieving pressure on our roads), energy (reducing our energy consumption), air quality (fewer tailpipes means cleaner air), economic development (preserving our natural beauty that attracts top talent and businesses from around the country) all while improving our health, to help contain the cost of health care.

It’s a winning deal for everyone.

The Chamber applauds Mayor Becker for his leadership and UTA for constantly finding new ways to run the nation’s best transit authority.

Here’s the official news release from the Mayor’s Office.

Mayor Proposes New Residential Transit Pass Program to Address Air Quality

SALT LAKE CITY – On Friday, Oct. 4, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker announced a fresh solution to help improve air quality – a new type of transit pass that may soon be available to Salt Lake City residents, helping minimize the number of car trips that contribute to poor air conditions.

Mayor Becker proposed an innovative partnership with Utah Transit Authority to offer the new transit pass option. Under the plan, Salt Lake City residents would be eligible to purchase a one-year transit pass for $360. Residents could pay all at once or in 12 installments of $30/month, charged to their utility bill. This would be the first pass to be offered to municipal residents as a group, although the plan is modeled after similar bulk pass programs offered by UTA.

The purpose of the pass is to incentivize use of mass transit and improve air quality. Studies show residents are more likely to utilize mass transit when they are pass-holders. The pass would be good for UTA’s regular bus, TRAX and FrontRunner services. In just six round trips per month, residents could break even on their investment. There would be no limit on the number of passes purchased per household.

Mayor Becker was joined for the announcement by Councilman Stan Penfold, the City Council sponsor of the proposal; Utah Transit Authority General Manager Michael Allegra; Breathe Utah Executive Director Erin Mendenhall; Salt Lake Chamber Executive Vice President of Communication Marty Carpenter and other community leaders. Attendees lauded the program as an important step toward creating sustainable solutions to Salt Lake City’s air quality challenges.

The residential pass is proposed as a one-year pilot program and, if approved by the City Council, is expected to launch in early 2014. UTA expects that up to 6,000 passes could be sold.

 

Utahns take to the trains

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

A pair of newspaper reports caught my eye this morning, both strengthening the case to support Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan 2040.

The first is from the Salt Lake Tribune from Fri., Aug. 30, the day after the Utes’ home opening victory over the Utah State Aggies. This was the first game UTA had accepted U of U football tickets as fare on the transit system. The result? A 27 percent increase in ridership.

The Tribune’s Lee Davidson reports TRAX had 84,109 boardings on Thursday, the day of the football opener between the U and Utah State University at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

That’s a great example of coordinated leadership and planning putting our transportation infrastructure to good use.

The second story, also published Aug. 30, reports a strong first week of operation for the recently-opened Draper TRAX line. Again, the Tribune reports ridership exceeded UTA’s expectations. That number is partly attributed to University of Utah student body heading back to class for the fall, with many students living in the Draper area.

If you’ll permit me momentary anecdotal evidence, I’m a regular FrontRunner rider with my commute beginning in northern Davis County. The trains are always a little more crowded the first few weeks of the fall semester, but they seem particularly full. By the time the commuter crowd from up north and the U students transfer to the Green Line train at North Temple, it makes for a rather full TRAX train.

More and more people, it seems, are ready to ride rather than drive. More people leaving their cars to ride the trains improves our air quality and opens more space on our freeways. That open space on the road means less traffic congestion. That’s also a big benefit to our clean air efforts. That balance is a benefit for everyone who uses our rails and our roads–especially as our population continues to grow.