The Utah Transit Authority honored individuals and businesses for their commitment to alternative transportation at their annual Commuter Vision Awards Thursday.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon recognized the importance of reducing our dependence on car travel in his keynote address.

"We're trying to get out of the mentality of the one-horse, one-rider concept of automobile travel that we have here in the West," Corroon said. "It's hard to change habits if we don't have alternatives."

Corroon praised the creation of new alternatives in UTA's plans to expand TRAX service into Draper, West Jordan, West Valley and to the airport. He also highlighted his administration's efforts to create options for county government employees through carpool/vanpool programs and public transit support. He noted the task of moving away from a car culture is daunting.

"We have our work cut out for us," Corroon said. "But big, new things are coming."

UTA General Manager John Inglish also acknowledged the challenges of changing the mindset of the solo commuter, but made a bold and optimistic prediction about the future of alternative transportation in the state.

"I think in five to 10 years Salt Lake will be able to demonstrate that we can move transit market share to 20 percent," Inglish said. "And 20 percent pedestrian and bicycle" commuters. Inglish said current rates of transit use are about 4-5 percent, and bicycle/pedestrian commuters represent less than 5 percent of the total.

Commuter Vision Award recipients are contributing to attaining this goal through their efforts to promote transportation alternatives. Award recipients include:

• Louis Melini, columnist for "Cycling Utah" magazine who promotes and encourages bicycle and pedestrian commuting

• Kristen Bird, human resources representative for L-3 Communication, who expanded her company's vanpool program from two to twelve vans.

• Air National Guard Sgt. Pamela Hamburg, who started a successful vanpool program at Hill Air Force Base.

• Brigham City Mayor Lou Ann Christensen created a novel "Flex Route" bus system for her city and is planning a commuter-rail project that will connect Brigham City with Ogden, and eventually with the new FrontRunner train.

• Orem-based companies HumanVoice and Western Wats, who sponsored cost-saving Eco Pass program for employees.

• South Valley School, part of the Jordan School District, that serves adult students with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. In 2005 the school successfully lobbied against the elimination of Route 90 and has incorporated the use of public transit into the curriculum for their students.

Scott Miklos supervises UTA's Vanpool and Rideshare programs, and said the service fills an important niche for commuters whose work schedules may not mesh with train and bus service times. Miklos said programs like the ones some of the awardees have started are spread across the state and are still growing.

"We've saved over 65 million miles from being driven ... and have 4,800 to 5,000 riders every day," Miklos said. "It's these people, and the companies they work for, that have gone above and beyond."

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