The University of Utah's $20 million project to build two new parking garages for more than 1,000 cars ("New parking garages ... ," Tribune, Feb. 22), constitutes a failure to fulfill its stated commitments to the environment, public health and community engagement.
The added parking spaces and the resulting additional car trips, with their attendant tail-pipe emissions, will contribute to the burgeoning Wasatch Front air-quality problems, which have been proven to pose a threat to public health. And the added traffic will burden local streets with more cars and congestion.
The university's plan to build more parking garages repudiates the "Climate Commitment" signed by then-University of Utah President Michael Young on Earth Day in 2008. When the commitment was signed, the University stated: "Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions poses the greatest threat to humankind of our time."
In response to this threat, the university's Office of Sustainability led a campus-wide effort to create the "2010 Climate Action Plan." Quoting from the University's website:
"Our Climate Action Plan mandates a 100 percent reduction in net carbon emissions from transportation and relies on individuals to choose methods other than automobiles to get to campus. With our universal transit pass, or Ed Pass, all students, faculty and staff of the university have unlimited transit access to the entire UTA regional transit network ... so it's easy to get to campus car free."
In the university's Climate Action Progress Report submitted in January, the university reported on its "Community Engagement" efforts:
"The university reaches out to state and local governments to achieve goals outlined in the ... 2010 Climate Action Plan. Workshops, forums, committees and other methods are used to include community members in decision making regarding transportation, greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, air quality, walkability and public policy."
With its unilaterally established plans to expand parking on campus, the university has failed to meet its assurances for "community engagement," its obligations as a good citizen to protect public health and its responsibilities to the environment.
Inviting more automobiles on campus by constructing more parking garages is a reversal of previously developed strategies to reduce transportation emissions. Ignoring the impact this action will have on the environment contradicts the university's avowed leadership role in science, health and sustainability.
Is the current administration abandoning its commitments to the community?
Chad Mullins, Holladay, served on the Transportation Task Force for the University of Utah's 2010 Climate Action Plan and is former chair of the Salt Lake County Bicycle Advisory Committee.