SALT LAKE CITY — Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow says Utahns have never lived in a time with as much change as there is now.
"Half of Utah that will exist in 2050 has not yet been created," Grow said Wednesday at the Wasatch Choice 2050 Consortium and Active Transportation and Health Summit. "And half of what exists today is going to change."
More than 600 political, community and business leaders joined policymakers and advocacy groups at the summit to discuss strategies to improve quality of life for Utahns along the Wasatch Front.
Utah's population hit 3 million in 2015 and is expected to double by 2050, Grow said. The rapid growth will affect air quality, transportation, housing density and water usage in the coming decades, he said.
Wasatch Choice 2050 provides a blueprint for development patterns, housing and transportation choices, as well as preservation of the environment, summit organizers said.
"This is a very formative process where we ask the public to engage with us. This is a time when their voice can absolutely be heard," said Muriel Xochimitl, the Wasatch Front Regional Council's director of intergovernmental affairs. "What do they want the future of their communities to look like? Not just for them, but for their kids, for their grandkids."
The consortium held forums on how rapid population growth will affect communities and how to create more active transportation for commuters, from making urban trails in walkable neighborhoods to high-quality streets for biking and walking to schools.
"People from all walks of life have a stronger desire for a healthy lifestyle, but it doesn't come easy," Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Wednesday. "We need to make it easier for people to live those healthy lifestyles."
More than 53,000 Utahns participated in a recent Wasatch Choice study that asked what families want in their future communities, Cox said. About 37,000 of those participants live along the Wasatch Front.
Of those respondents, 82 percent said they want communities that are walkable, have a variety of housing options and access to transit. Utah residents also want neighborhoods that are safe, prosperous, neighborly and healthy, according to the study.
"If it can be done anywhere, it can be done here in the state of Utah," Cox said.
In addition to forums, interactive tours were held at the consortium to show how Wasatch Choice is changing communities and transit options.
One of the tours was traveling downtown using Salt Lake City's bike-share program GREENbike. There are now 220 bikes available for rent at 25 stations around Utah's capital city.
GREENbike Founder Ben Bolte said he wants to increase participation in the program by adding another 100 to 150 bike stations.
"Everybody can use it. It's designed for everyone," he said.
A GREENbike survey found that 75 percent of bikers cited "air quality/environmental concerns" as an important factor in their decision to ride.
To help reduce air pollution and be more active, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said he biked to work every day in 2014.5 comments on this story
"When you're out on a bike, you see and hear things and get a sense of your community, and feel far more connected to the community," Caldwell said.
This year, Ogden received a funding grant to bring GREENbike to Ogden. The bikes are scheduled to roll out the coming year, a step Wasatch Choice 2050 officials say will play a significant role in reducing traffic congestion and connecting riders to transit.
"I'm excited about the growth that is coming here," Cox said. "I'm excited about the way we are thinking about this intentionally."