Officials Hope Drivers Pay Attention to Red Alert Days

Officials Hope Drivers Pay Attention to Red Alert Days

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Gene Kennedy ReportingDo commuters really limit their driving when pollution levels are up? What's the response to another red alert day when we're all encouraged to limit driving because of the heat and high pollution levels?

Nine red alert days so far this year -- all in July. Not unusual with this heat, but air quality experts say we've got to cut back on car pollution on days like these. In fact, The Utah Division of Air Quality says vehicle exhaust accounts for half the pollution in Salt Lake City.

We visited Lamb's Grill during lunch hour. Connie Fry came to downtown Salt Lake City for a bite to eat, but she didn't use four wheels to get here. She used exactly what air quality officials hoped she would.

Connie Fry, TRAX User: "I just know when it gets really hot the air gets stagnant and can make it a lot worse so I take TRAX in as much as I can."

Robin Wolcott, Downtown Resident: "If there's a warning that means it's bad and you don't want to make it any worse."

Kimberly Stark, Salt Lake Driver: "I guess if I was really environmentally conscious I'd probably take the TRAX, so maybe my answer is no."

Alex Churchwood, Mass Transit Supporter: "I'm a big fan of the public transportation system and use it anyway."

The last time the Utah Department of Transportation monitored traffic counts on red alert days was summer 2003, and mostly on the valley's main freeways like I-15, a freeway that sees about 200,000 cars a day.

On red alert days, UDOT saw a 4-percent decrease. Do the math, that's about four-thousand fewer cars. Transportation officials are not sure if the decrease can be credited to red alert days, but air quality experts say it's, "wonderful, every little bit helps."

Bob Dalley, Div. of Air Quality: "If we encourage people to carpool, if one person rides with another, then you've cut the emissions down in that case by fifty percent."

As long as these triple-digit temperatures continue, expect more red alert days. Air quality experts hope we will all be environmentally conscious.

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