Commuting employees at Utah Housing Corp. are being given the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint by getting out of their cars and into mass transit under a new agreement between the nonprofit and the Utah Transit Authority.

Utah Housing is paying for employee passes for buses, light rail and the FrontRunner express train in hopes reducing the time and hassle of driving to work every day and reducing automobile emissions along the Wasatch Front over the long run.

The 55 employees will have to adjust to UTA schedules, but some say that will be easier than dealing with the stress and delays of traffic gridlock getting to and from work. Utah Housing purchased UTA's premium Eco-Passes that enable employees to travel on FrontRunner, TRAX, express buses and fixed-route buses anywhere within the UTA system.

The passes are a big relief, said employee Cheryl Evans, and couldn't have come at better time — the highest gasoline prices ever and the highest temperatures of the year are a combination that make being stuck in traffic more stressful.

William Erickson, president of Utah Housing, said that purchasing the passes is already proving to be a great investment in staff morale, and he recommends it for any business. "Investing in transit for Utah Housing employees is investing in quality of life for all of us, and that feels pretty good."

Lorin Simpson, UTA Regional General Manager, said the new arrangement is noteworthy because it continues the close partnership of the two key agencies in Utah that help people to get housing and to get from here to there. "Anything that furthers those efforts is great."

And it is award-winning. Utah Housing was awarded the Commuter Vision Award in 2006. Utah Housing and UTA have worked together over many years to improve employee commuter options and protect the environment: Utah Housing leases two commuter vans for employees coming from north and south of Salt Lake County; about 30 percent of Utah Housing employees ride the vans every day; Utah Housing and UTA coordinated to improve bus service to Utah Housing's corporate site in West Valley City

Utah Housing provides mortgages for first-time homebuyers, finances rental properties and develops special-needs housing. More than 80,000 Utahns have purchased their first homes through its discount-mortgage program.

UTA was started in 1970 and today operates more than 600 buses, 69 light-rail vehicles and 30 commuter-rail cars. UTA's TRAX light rail system is currently averaging between 40,000 and 50,000 riders a day.

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