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Throughout February, the U will compete in the Clear the Air Challenge to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road and reduce emissions from personal vehicles.

By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Office

What’s more important than the air we breathe? Not much. Together, it is time to take action and do something about it.

Let’s ride public transit.

We’ve entered inversion season. It’s gray, grimy and hazardous to our health. Mobile sources — including personal vehicles — contribute nearly 50 percent to the fine particulate matter that dirties our winter air. By taking shuttles, buses, TRAX and FrontRunner, we can breathe easier by reducing the number of pollutants released into our airshed.

Throughout February, the University of Utah will compete in the Clear the Air Challenge, a statewide competition to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles (SOV) on the road and reduce emissions from personal vehicles. Participants can log all non-SOV trips — including riding transit, carpooling, walking or biking — on the mobile-friendly TravelWise Tracker website and win prizes, including dinner with Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and incoming president Ruth Watkins and Chief Sustainability Officer Amy Wildermuth for the top five U team members. Other prize sponsors include GREENbike SLC, Ski Utah, Campus Bike Shop, Utah State Parks and the Sustainability Office.

This year, we encourage you to try out public transportation — there are many buses and trains that can bring you to campus. Public transit has many benefits, including reducing emissions that rank Salt Lake City among the American Lung Association’s top 10 most polluted cities for short-term particle pollution. It is also good for people watching and a night out, according to interviews with more than 200 students about why they ride shuttles, buses and TRAX. Here are students’ top reasons to ride public transportation:

  1. Public transit is free with UCard
  2. Avoid paying for parking
  3. I live close to transit
  4. Avoid paying for gas
  5. I do not have a car or I share a car
  6. Parking is too hard to find
  7. Avoid stress of driving/traffic congestion
  8. Better for the environment
  9. Faster than driving
  10. I can read or study

Whatever your reason for riding, the end result is fewer emissions entering the air we breathe. If we all ride transit, together we can make a difference.

Join the U’s Clear the Air Challenge team and let’s cut our emissions.