Give Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and Orem Community Hospital an A+ in community responsibility and environmental awareness.

This week hospital officials announced all employees will receive an unlimited Utah Transit Authority bus pass at the start of the new year. The hospitals are the first major businesses in Utah to give all employees free, unlimited bus passes.The hospitals chose to offer bus passes as an employee benefit to:

- Reduce parking hassles at the hospital and provide additional parking for patients and visitors.

- Contribute to a reduction in traffic congestion and vehicle emissions in the Provo/Orem area.

- Provide a way for employees to reduce transportation expenses.

The hospitals' gesture could go a long way toward making a real dent in the above problems - provided their 2,300 employees do their part and actually use the passes.

In any event, the hospitals have also set an outstanding example for other businesses to follow.

Provo City is a non-attainment area for carbon monoxide. Most carbon monoxide comes from automobiles and other forms of transportation. So far this year, there have been 11 carbon monoxide violations recorded at the University Avenue monitor. Creative and, in some cases, drastic measures will be necessary in order for Provo City to come into compliance with federal standards for carbon monoxide.

Other Utah communities have similar problems. Likewise, plenty of other Utah firms employ large numbers of people, most of whom drive to work. Because most of these people remain at their place of business throughout the day, they really don't need their cars while at work.

Instead of searching for ever more parking space, building expensive parking structures and designing elaborate parking systems, companies should consider encouraging employees to take the bus to work. A free bus pass would help.

There may be days that employees need to drive to work - to keep doctor appointments, for example. But learning to "Go UTA" shouldn't be hard for most people. In fact, time spent on the bus can be put to good use - reading, catching up on paperwork or catching a few winks.

Some employees will protest that without a car at work they'll be unable to respond to family emergencies. Businesses can alleviate that fear by making a company car available to employees confronted with true emergencies.

Utah Valley and Orem Community hospitals are to be applauded for encouraging their employees to leave their cars at home and take the bus to work. Other Utah businesses should be encouraged to follow their example.