Salt Lake City has been plagued by "bad air" this winter. Not just this year, but for many years. In recent years, it's been getting a little more attention. A combination of the geography of this beautiful valley and its mountains, the high pressure weather systems that move through, and the emissions created by heavy industry, automobiles, and just plain living (like heating our homes) all contribute to the problem of bad air. Everyone agrees that it has to stop. Very few people actually do anything about it, although that fact also seems to be changing in recent years and months.
I have been trying to "do my part" by riding the light rail train "Trax" to work. It's not a long ride: just 4 miles and 20 minutes each way. But it's 20 minutes less each way that I am in my car, stopped at red lights, idling and adding to the problem of our bad air.
Every morning after getting off the Trax, I walk past a Century Link building, near the Madsen Health Center. It seems to be some sort of maintenance building that house switchboards and servers. Every morning, I walk past three (fat) guys in their utility trucks, with their engines idling. I arrive anywhere between 8am and 9am, and there are always at least two or three trucks there. Idling. For an hour -- or more?
Someone asked me, "Well, it's cold outside. Where are they supposed to go? How will they keep warm?" I don't care where they go, as long as they are not in their trucks with the engines running. They can go to Dunkin Donuts for all I care. It's warm in there and there's free WiFi.
There is an anti-idling law in Salt Lake City. No resident, even if they are on their own property, is allowed to idle a vehicle for more than 2 minutes (the length of most stop lights). Cutting down on idling can cut down significantly on the amount of pollution that is trapped in the valley, especially on cold-weather, high-pressure "inversion days".
Today, I'd had enough. I walked past those Century Link guys in their idling trucks and I told them to "Turn the key. Shut it OFF!" And do you know what they did? They smirked and shrugged their shoulders at me. And they left their engines running.
Do you know what I did? I called Salt Lake City police dispatch. If you see idling vehicles, especially from utility companies or from the city or county, I encourage you to do the same. The number is 801-799-3000. These people are not going to do anything to change their ways unless we get angry. Unless we decide to do something. Unless we stand up and say, "I don't want to breathe bad air anymore, and WE ALL are part of the problem." We all can do better. We need to change our ways and we need to try.
I will walk past that building again on Wednesday. I will let you know what happens. I will also be writing down the license plate numbers of those trucks and turning them in to the police the next time I see them idling. It's time to do something. It's time we all do something.