• Lincoln Institute Spotlights Wasatch Front Region
  • Did You Miss the New Wasatch Choice Resources? Check Them Out!
  • The Way Home: The Shift to Telework and its Air Quality Ramifications 
  • January Map of the Month: City-Level Sales Tax Trends
  • Street Network Connectivity, Traffic Congestion and Traffic Safety
  • Sidewalk Snow Removal
Lincoln Institute Spotlights Wasatch Front Region

From January 13th to the 15th WFRC hosted the national Consortium for Scenario Planning Conference, an event of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. This was a cutting-edge digital event that featured interactive presentations by WFRC and dozens of practitioners, consultants, and academics from across the U.S. who use scenarios to develop more equitable and inclusive places, address economic and environmental challenges, respond to infrastructural needs, and more.

Scenario planning is a practice through which communities explore the long-term consequences of a variety of potential actions. It is also used to plan an uncertain future. The practice guides planners, community members, and other stakeholders through considerations of various futures and how to effectively respond to and plan for them.

The Lincoln Institute ran this story on 20 years of scenario planning in Utah in advance of the conference.  
Did You Miss the New Wasatch Choice Resources? Check Them Out!

Last month the Wasatch Choice Partners developed resources to help local governments meet the demands of growth and COVID-19. This resulted in a package of new resources! These new resources can help communities to implement the Vision, by engaging with their residents, and by updating their local plans.  

Utah has been the fastest growing state over the last 10 years and growth hasn’t slowed during COVID-19. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is affecting communities in significant ways including fiscal implications as well as short and potential long-term changes to the way people live, work, play and travel within communities and the region. 

The twin challenges of growth and COVID-19 impel communities to consider updates to planning. As communities move forward, the following resources can help:  

Eileen Barron, Utah Department of Transportation (Chair of the Communications Working Group), Trustee Beth Holbrook, Utah Transit Authority (Co-Chair of the Public Engagement Working Group), and Katie Gerard, Wasatch Front Regional Council spoke with Susan Wood from the Utah League of Cities and Towns in a podcast about these new resources. Check it out!

  • Public Engagement: Process and tips for planning and executing effective dialogue and engagement with public groups.
  • One-on-One Engagement: Tips and data to aid in having more effective conversations with individual members of the public on difficult topics.
  • Messaging: Ready messaging for use in describing our challenges, and, when applicable, the role of the shared Wasatch Choice Vision in meeting them.

There are many resources available to help assist local governments in planning. A key challenge is just knowing what is available. Partnering agencies across the state have compiled a one-stop list of these resources.

Data Resources
This collection of map-based data sets provides information on the following topics:

For more information please contact Ted Knowlton at ted@wfrc.org.
The Way Home: The Shift to Telework and its Air Quality Ramifications 
The Utah Foundation released Part II of its series on Telework which can be found here:

This study looks at the impact of telecommuting in Utah which has been embraced on a large scale as a result of coronavirus restrictions. The concept of telecommuting has been around for decades, but popular acceptance has been slow in the traditional business environment. A silver lining to the recent pandemic may be an opportunity to experience and evaluate telecommuting on a regional scale.

A U.S. Census Bureau survey in October 2020 found that Utahns are more likely than other intermountain states to work remotely.

And a UCAIR survey found that over 90% of Utah employees and employers would be willing to work remotely in the future. Telework represents a highly effective and low-cost strategy to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. In fact, working from home could save a commuter anywhere from $2,500-$4,000 annually in travel costs providing a built-in incentive for working remotely with the added benefits of reduced congestion and reduced emissions.

Other advantages to telework include more time with family and reduced stress. In addition to reduced commuting, employees are also more likely to now use virtual resources for conducting meetings. Some of the disadvantages noted were the lack of face-to-face time and team building opportunities. One recommendation of the report was to couple remote work with in-person time at the office.

The Utah Foundation report concludes “Remote working appears to be one significant means of taking cars off the road, thereby reducing air pollution. The pandemic has shown many public and private entities the extent to which remote work is possible.” 
January Map of the Month: City-Level Sales Tax Trends

The imprint of COVID-19 on our local economies and regional retail patterns is readily apparent in taxable sales reported across different Utah cities and business sectors. The good news is that it is not all bad news...but it is interesting!

WFRC's January Map of the Month compares year-to-year taxable sales between 2019 and 2020 using data reported quarterly to the Utah State Tax Commission (USTC) for mid and large-sized cities. 

There's a lot of insight to be found in the taxable sales data, especially in the second (April-June) and third (Jul-Sep) quarters. Putting this data map form makes for easier comparisons within our region. On the whole, taxable sales -- and accompanying sales tax revenues that fund everything from municipal and state services to road projects and transit operations -- have increased slightly in 2020 as Utah continues to grow. But this is certainly not true for every city, and definitely not true for every sector.

The interactive map highlights several business sectors that exhibit dynamics of COVID era, are directly relevant to transportation funding, or both. These include Non-Store Retail (internet sales, etc.), Restaurants and Bars, Retail Auto, Construction and Building Supply, General Retail, and Gas Stations.

Online shopping, a home improvement surge, and work-from-home-shop-near-home are just some of the trends that can be explored. We'll plan to add additional quarterly data to this map as it becomes available from USTC.

For more information please contact Bert Granberg at bgranberg@wfrc.org or analytics@wfrc.org.
Street Network Connectivity, Traffic Congestion and Traffic Safety

Street network design affects destination accessibility, travel behaviors, and overall network efficiency. Although connected networks are generally understood to best practice for subdivisions, increasing street connectivity might be challenging in local practice due to concerns that connected roads may increase traffic on residential streets and negatively influence traffic safety. As an effort to support data-driven planning practice, researchers at the Metropolitan Research Center of the University of Utah, through a UDOT research grant, conducted empirical research to examine whether street network connectivity is associated with congestion levels and crash rates. The results showed that more connected neighborhoods have significantly lower congestion levels, but they do not have measurably lower (or higher) crash rates, presumably due to the prevalence of four-way intersections. This study concluded that improving street network at a neighborhood level could be considered as a viable community development strategy to mitigate congestion on major arteries without compromising road safety, even while having more intersections at which conflicts occur.
Sidewalk Snow Removal

Keep people walking during the winter months! In addition to being an incredibly healthy activity that should be encouraged throughout the winter, walking is simply great at getting people where they need to go. One of the biggest obstacles to winter walking is snow and ice on sidewalks and sidewalk curb ramps. Let’s get sidewalks shoveled following a storm! 

Many people, but especially children, elderly persons, and differently-abled people have a difficult time navigating sidewalks that aren’t cleared of snow and ice. This applies whether someone is walking for exercise, walking to school, walking to a bus stop, or walking around the corner to a neighbor's home. Areas that rarely see the sun in winter or sidewalk curb ramps that get covered when plows push snow onto them are especially important to address quickly after the snow has fallen, otherwise they can ice up and be incredibly difficult to clear.

Every city has different requirements for snow removal following a storm, but the responsibility typically falls on adjacent property owners, including businesses, to maintain a clear sidewalk. If you have questions, check with your city to see what requirements are in place. Let’s do our part to keep sidewalks clear and give friendly reminders to others when we can.

Unfortunately, there are people that may not have the ability to clear snow along their property due to physical condition, work schedules, or other circumstances. For those of us that can shovel snow, let’s lend a helping hand to our neighbors that cannot. Together, we can keep people walking all winter long.