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Other ‘friends’ to blame?

Few city workers for S.L. use UTA; many drive in from north

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Most workers at the City-County Building drive their cars to work, despite the nearby TRAX station.

Most workers at the City-County Building drive their cars to work, despite the nearby TRAX station.

Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News

When it comes to automobile pollution along the Wasatch Front, employees of Salt Lake City are part of the problem.

Despite working less than a block from a TRAX light-rail stop, hundreds of city employees who labor at and around City Hall drive their cars to the office, information provided by the city's Department of Human Resources indicates.

City records also show that hundreds of those "friends from the north" who Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson fears are making Salt Lake City residents sick actually work for Salt Lake City.

Specifically, one in every 10 (or 307) of the city's 2,962 employees live in Davis County but travel into Salt Lake City to do their jobs. An additional 51 come from Weber and Cache counties.

Besides Davis, another 320 city employees come from other counties, like Utah, Tooele and Summit, to work for Salt Lake City taxpayers. Another 656 live in suburban Salt Lake County cities.

More than 1,600 city employees have Salt Lake City addresses. However, human resources director Brenda Hancock said many of those don't live within the city's boundaries but rather in unincorporated parts of Salt Lake County.

Of the city's nearly 3,000 full- and part-time employees, only 813 have picked up a transit pass, even though the city will give any employee the pass for free. That leaves at least 2,149 employees driving to work, although it's likely that many more do since it's unknown how many of those 813 actually use their passes to get to work.

"It's really difficult to manage that," Jodi Langford, the city's employee benefits administrator, said.

In the past, employee use of the free transit passes has been sporadic. A 2002 Utah Transit Authority-sponsored survey of city employees noted that of 306 who lived downtown, picked up a transit pass and participated in the survey, only 23 percent said they used the pass regularly.

Of the city's employees who maintain city parking stalls, 425 work at downtown city offices, including the City-County Building, Information Management Services offices on 200 East and the justice court, also on 200 East. Those 425 employees drive to work despite working within half a block of a TRAX light-rail station.

Anderson's spokeswoman Deeda Seed said the city's large number of commuter employees is all the more reason for the mayor's transit-first message to continue. Everyone, city employees included, needs to consciously reflect on their automobile use, especially given the area's current inversion and dismal air quality, she said.

"You and I are going to have to reconsider our use of our cars," she said.

Anderson agrees and says that the only reason he singled out automobile commuters "from up north" in his State of the City speech was the larger context of the Legacy Parkway debate.

The mayor maintains Davis County's proposed 14-mile parkway, which is expected to cost state taxpayers some $750 million, will increase urban sprawl, traffic and pollution.

"This is not about me," he said.

"The focus on that is the result of the media's misleading representation of what was said," he added.

A few Davis County commuters who work for Salt Lake City contacted the Deseret Morning News last week indicating they were offended by Anderson's State of the City speech. Those employees said they didn't want to be identified.

In the speech Anderson said, "We want our friends from the north to come to Salt Lake City; we just don't want them to increase our city's traffic, further foul our air, undermine the quality of our lives, and make us sick simply because of the choices they make about where they live and how they get around."

The full text of the speech can be found at www.slcgov.com/mayor.

Some City Council members also said they had heard from upset employees. The council took special note to praise the city's commuter employees in its "Policy Statement on Constructive Relationships with Neighboring Communities," which was adopted in response to Anderson's speech.

"Salt Lake City and our residents also benefit from the contributions of many dedicated city employees who commute into the city to perform vital services," the statement read.

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com