SmartTrips program encourages walking, biking, busing

Published: Wednesday, March 28 2012 12:44 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The city is partnering with UTA, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department and local neighborhood businesses around Liberty Park to urge people to abandon their car keys in favor of walking, biking or riding the bus to get around.

Called the 2012 SmartTrips program, the pilot project announced Wednesday in front of the Tracy Aviary is modeled after successful programs launched in Oregon, Washington and Australia.

Phil Sarnoff, with the Salt Lake City Division of Sustainability, said the goal is to get at least 15 percent of 1,000 households in a 16-square block area to take up the challenge and enjoy a free seven-day UTA bus pass and other incentives if they participate.

Residents who live between 900 South and 1300 South from 700 East to 1100 East will receive mailers next week, as well as the first week in May and in June explaining the benefits of SmartTrips, which aims to decrease vehicle miles driven and emissions from vehicles, as well as boost overall health.

Sarnoff said he talked with Portland's coordinator of the program to draw on ideas of what would work for the East Liberty neighborhood, which already has established bike lanes and plenty of locally owned businesses to provide coupons for products as an incentive.

In Portland, SmartTrips helped spur an 18 percent decrease in drive-alone trips while boosting a 30 percent increase in environmentally-friendly modes of transportation, Sarnoff said. Information from the Portland model shows that actual participant trips didn't decrease, indicating residents opted to bicycle, walk or ride the bus to get around, he added.

"We think we will have success at making it work here," he said.

Proponents of the pilot project said the key to having this trial run take hold is to make alternative transportation options a no-fuss and accessible choice, in addition to providing in-the-hand lures.

Thom Benedict, owner of Earth Goods General Store, said his business and others will provide discount coupons for products to encourage participation and also to encourage patronage of local businesses.

"We look forward to seeing more people out walking, riding their bicycles."

SmartTrips participants will get a Salt Lake City bike map, UTA transit schedules, a WalkScore map that shows the resources available to them, customized bicycle commute trips, carpool information and information on bicycle and pedestrian laws.

Seven-day UTA passes, bicycle pumps and taillights, as well as pedometers have been donated by participating businesses or organizations. A corresponding public education campaign will provide information on basic bicycle maintenance, bicycle commuting,  riding UTA, walkable destinations and women-only bicycle riding. The program runs April 1 through Oct. 31.

More information is available at www.slcclassic.com/slcgreen/SmartTrips/default.htm.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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