May 7, 2024 - News

Salt Lake ranks high for clean transportation efforts

Traffic moves under a cloud of smog in downtown Salt Lake City.

The air looks bad, but researchers give Salt Lake an "A" for effort. Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salt Lake is one of the nation's top metro areas for limiting pollution from transportation, according to a recent report. That's despite the Wasatch Front's notoriously poor air quality, especially during the winter.

Why it matters: Every puff of exhaust matters in an area where people with health problems are told to stay indoors and schools cancel recess to protect children from the air.

State of play: Salt Lake ranked 15th overall on a new index that scores the 100 biggest U.S. cities on a variety of measures for transportation-related emissions.

How it works: The Transportation Climate Impact Index, created by transit-analysis firm StreetLight Data, looks at overall vehicle miles traveled, fuel efficiency, electric vehicles, transit ridership, cycling, walking and truck miles traveled.

By the numbers: Salt Lake ranked 8th for mass transit ridership, 11th for pedestrian activity and 16th for electric vehicle market penetration and bicycle activity.

  • Our lowest rankings were for truck miles traveled (No. 59) and fuel economy (No. 42).

Yes, but: Ogden-Clearfield and Provo-Orem tied for dead last for mass transit ridership.

  • Utah Transit Authority manages public transportation for all three metro areas.

Zoom in: Although air quality in northern Utah is expected to worsen, transportation is far from the only factor.

  • Wildfire smoke is projected to be a huge contributor amid rising temperatures and drought.
  • That said, climate change is mostly a result of vehicle emissions.

Between the lines: The Wasatch Front will always be extra susceptible to poor air quality because the mountain ranges create a basin that traps pollution when high pressure systems linger between storms.

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