Utah Alternative Fuels and the Impact of COVID-19

Utah Alternative Fuels and the Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has influenced many systems of operation in Utah and the nation. As new information is discovered, new responses and approaches are being tested throughout the world, especially in the realm of transportation. 

Utah Clean Cities (UCC) is committed to keeping Utah at the center of innovation and smart mobility.

Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has been one of Utah’s hardest-hit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been responsive and adaptive to both its operators and customers with routing and safety measures.

  • UTA has seen a drop in ridership of up to 65% and as a result, the company has reduced some commuter-only services where alternative modes of transportation are available. 
  • The majority of routes are continuing with these reductions and a comprehensive list of route changes is available. 
  • UTA is committed to ensuring that its riders are getting the services they need, and they encourage riders to make their voices heard on how UTA is currently handling the barriers they are facing or how they can improve their services by filling out a survey
  • In addition to complying with the Salt Lake County mandate, UTA announced that, in order to keep public transportation safe for riders and employees, everyone is required to wear a face mask. UTA made a statement to assure those without access to a face mask that they will be providing them for riders at customer service locations and eventually on transit vehicles. 

Swift action was taken by UTA to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. In the long term, this could benefit UTA versus other public transportation organizations who may experience a greater loss in finances and ridership. This is evident from the fact that other public transportation organizations are looking at upwards of 70% reductions. 

COVID-19 & Utah Air Quality 

The significant reduction in air pollutants in the Salt Lake Valley during the pandemic has emphasized the need for an increase in clean, advanced fuels in the U.S. transportation sector. Measurements of air pollutants in March from various monitoring stations show that nitric oxide (NOX) levels were 57% lower than the average and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was 36% lower than average while particulate matter (PM2.5) is down by 59% and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were 19% and 33% lower than average at the Sugarhouse and University of Utah stations, respectively.

Imagine, as we do strategically here at UCC, what it would look like to fully commit to zero & near-zero emissions and beyond zero, carbon benefiting fuels found in renewable energy: electric, natural gas, biofuels which in the renewable form actually prevent greenhouse gases from being released.

Alternative Fuel Solutions: Fuel & Energy Independence

Today, with the availability of over 12 alternative fuels on the market and various alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), now is the time to transition from conventional to alternative fuels and AFVs. From a financial perspective, we know that fleets look at the total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) as primary factors. And while the adoption of AFVs may seem cost-prohibitive and some fleets carry an outdated perspective of early adoption stories from 20 years ago, they have been proven successful.

The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) provides an extensive list of federal laws and incentives correlated with alternative vehicles and advanced fuel technologies as well as incentives through Clean Cities Financial Opportunities that may alleviate the cost of alternative fuels and AFVs. For instance, electricity is significantly cheaper than gasoline because it can be produced domestically which, in turn, can lead to considerable savings. Aside from electricity, another alternative fuel, compressed natural gas (CNG), has become more widely available across the U.S. Whether your decision for change takes the form of an electric vehicle or renewable diesel for heavy-duty vehicles, all alternative options are viable nowadays. Major interstates are boasting alternative fuel corridors that are planned and are being built for alternative fueling stations and the time has never been better to make the switch.

Alternative fuels are no longer the fuels of the future, but the fuels of today. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable the U.S. and Utah are, in regard to fuels. This experience stresses the importance of being able to produce our state-side and renewable fuel. The truth is: alternative & advanced fuel strategies have the capability to help Utah economically

Utah Clean Cities is here to support Utah economically through the use of alternative fuels by further benefiting job security in the transportation sector while creating fuel and economic independence. 


By Christopher Firmage, Utah Clean Cities