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Air Quality Researchers Use TRAX to Collect Data

A screen shot of the data collected on a TRAX train shows the variation in air quality as it moves through the valley.

Atmospheric scientists at the University of Utah have installed an air quality monitor on a Utah Transit Authority TRAX train. It’s helping them get a detailed picture of air pollution around the Salt Lake valley.

Until now, Salt Lake valley researchers have been mostly limited to air quality data from one location at Hawthorne Elementary School.  But Logan Mitchell, a post-doctoral research scholar in atmospheric sciences has been working with the UTA to change that.

“The beauty of TRAX is you can use one instrument and you can get data from across the valley,” Mitchell says. In a pilot project, University researchers installed an air quality monitor on one TRAX train that travels on different routes around the valley. The train has been measuring particulate matter or PM 2.5 for just a few days now, but Mitchell says they’re already starting to see patterns. 

“Out at Daybreak, you can see a lot better air quality than you can downtown along the urban core. Up at the University, it’s maybe slightly better, but not as good as Daybreak… in terms of particulate matter,” Mitchell says.

They are posting the air quality measurements in real time on a public website, but Mitchell cautions that this is only preliminary data. He’s hoping they will be able to expand the project to fund more monitors on more trains. He says the data could help health researchers to better understand the relationship between exposure to air pollution and health impacts.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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