Open Letter to Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Legislators:
We appreciate your efforts to clean up Utah’s air. We know air quality is one of the top issues you face in the current legislative session, and most of the solutions are difficult, expensive and complicated.
One direct, simple – and very substantive – action you can take this session is to support expanding and increasing the convenience and frequency of public transit that will take cars off roads. This will significantly improve our air quality. This is a step forward endorsed by the Governor’s Clean Air Action Team.
A “Quarter for Clean Air” – Rep. Johnny Anderson’s HB388, lifts the cap on local-option sales tax funding by one quarter of one percent. This would enable counties to ask voters if they would like to expand public transit, making it more convenient and frequent, and would be a significant action taken by you to clean our air.
We are an alliance of business leaders, local government officials, non-profit organizations and individual citizens. By giving local officials the ability to ask voters if they would like to expand public transit, we believe that passing Rep. Anderson’s bill is one the most important things you can do this session to empower citizens to choose clean air for Utah well into the future.
In providing this critical tool, the Legislature would not be increasing taxes or even authorizing a vote on taxes. You would be tackling this issue head-on and partnering with local leaders – and voters – in combating dirty air. Recent Salt Lake Chamber-commissioned survey research shows air pollution is a top concern of Utah voters and 76 percent support transportation initiatives to improve air quality.
The Wasatch Front has one of the best public transit backbones in the country. Now the focus must switch from building large new infrastructure projects to increasing frequency, coverage and convenience of bus and rail service, and expanding active transportation opportunities. When public transit is more frequent, convenient, and easily accessible with walking and cycling options, ridership increases significantly.
We know that vehicle emissions produce 57 percent of air pollution during inversions. Increased public transit attacks this problem head-on and will have immediate benefits.
A quarter cent funding boost, if approved by voters, would result long-term in a 68 percent overall increase in service and a projected 89 percent increase in ridership. These improvements would remove 344,000 tons of emissions and reduce auto-related pollutants by an additional 74 percent by taking an additional 84,000 vehicles off our roads. A multitude of other benefits would occur in our communities.
This is a unique opportunity to immediately move the dial on air quality and do what Utah does best – collaborate to accomplish big things. In the interest of improved air quality and mobility, we encourage you to support Rep. Johnny Anderson’s HB388.