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Salt Lake County, U of U, and UTA to Track Air Quality Through Mobile Monitors on Electric Buses

Posted By Regional Development
July 16, 2021

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Channeling Utah’s innovative spirit, a pilot program is launching in Salt Lake County to collect real-time air quality data in an internationally unprecedented way. 

New air quality monitors are being installed on Utah Transit Authority’s electric buses for two routes crossing east and west sides of Salt Lake County, which will provide scientists, leaders, and residents mobile real-time air quality data.

Collecting data on PM2.5, ozone, and nitrogen oxide levels through these electric bus air monitors will give policymakers a better understanding of which communities are at an increased risk of breathing unhealthy air and implement more targeted incentive and regulatory measures to save money and generate higher reductions in pollution.

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“Improving the air we breathe is a top priority and concern for us, and to accelerate more equitable environmental gains, we must have better data. I believe we’ll achieve that in a remarkable way through this new electric bus air monitor program so we can better serve residents who are facing the worst of pollution,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said.

For example, this mobile platform will have the ability to discover pollution hot spots, neighborhood by neighborhood, allowing policymakers to channel resources and efforts more effectively to those specific areas with high air pollution.

This joint effort comes from the collaboration of University of Utah, UTA, Utah Division of Air Quality, and Salt Lake County experts. The pilot is being supported by funding from Salt Lake County, UTA, Rocky Mountain Power, UCAIR, WFRC, University of Utah, and the Utah Legislature.

“The electric bus air quality project will augment our already dense network composed of stationary and mobile platforms (on TRAX) to establish the world's densest air quality observation platform using reliable, high-quality research grade sensors,” said Daniel Mendoza, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Pulmonary Medicine, and City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah. “This effort will facilitate analysis for public health and policy purposes that will help us address environmental justice concerns. We are excited to start the research and are grateful for the wide-ranging partnership that worked tirelessly to make this project a reality.”

The project will serve as a model that can be scaled to increase real-time air quality monitoring coverage across all communities in Salt Lake County, which when built out, will create the most detailed pollution mapping system in the world.

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“Riding UTA can play a significant role in reducing pollution and improving air quality,” said Carlton Christensen, Chair of the UTA Board of Trustees. “Air monitors installed on TRAX provided valuable data in this effort, and we’re excited to be part of innovative approaches to help address critical public health challenges. We appreciate our partnership with Salt Lake County, the University of Utah, DAQ, and all who have made this project happen.”

Air quality monitors have been used in Salt Lake County since 1963 to help us better understand the contaminants in the air that are unhealthy to breathe. Data collected through these electric bus air monitors will be available on a website for public consumption following initial trial runs.