College of Social & Behavioral Science
Faculty Mentor: Tabitha Benney (Political Science, University of Utah)
During poor air episodes, the Salt Lake Valley (SLV) area suffers from an apparent pollutant heterogeneity that disproportionately affects neighborhoods across the valley. The University of Utah, in partnership with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), created a state-of-the- art mobile air quality monitoring network in 2014 that is uniquely equipped to diagnose the state of local air quality with an unprecedented level of detail. A vast mobile network of sensors becomes pivotal in pinpointing these discrepancies during peak events to ascertain the level of inequality and possible inadvertent sources of pollution, such as industrial infrastructure shortcomings. This study explores the recent expansion of the network to include research-grade sensors on UTA’s electric bus fleet (eBus). In combination with the existing mobile sensor network, the eBus contributes to a new level of spatial/temporal resolution and accuracy to the network. Increasing the scope of the network to include data with an unprecedented amount of control over its spatial coverage has improved the accuracy of inverse distance interpolation methods. Our preliminary data analysis has revealed severe pollution hotspots on a neighborhood scale during peak events that would not have been picked up by stationary sensors or the existing TRAX network. Based on early results, these invaluable data will be a launching ground for a series of studies that improve our understanding of environmental justice issues and the behavior of air pollutants in the SLV.