Park City and Summit County Debate Roles Ahead of Transit Project

The transit crisis in Park City has grown into an all-encompassing boogeyman in the minds of many residents and visitors to town. The congestion locking down both entryways into town during peak times is contributing to not only to dreaded powder day delays, but also to the growing workforce shortage that threatens to upend a resort town economy. Many people are reaching a breaking point, especially as the organizations tasked with alleviating the issue—namely Park City, Summit County and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) are mired in their own sort of gridlock when it comes to getting on the same page.

For the past 40 years, Park City’s transit district has helmed the area’s public transit projects, but as the year-round population has boomed throughout Snyderville Basin and the rest of Summit County, the County has rapidly expanded its role as seen with public transit routes serving areas including Kamas, Trailside and Summit Park. The County has more than doubled its annual transit spending over the past six years, and understandably they would like a larger seat at the table before putting down real money, which County manager Tom Fisher says they’re ready to do.

Despite pipe dreams of a monorailMONORAIL!— or an all-encompassing aerial transit system of gondolas, rapid transit bus lines with minimal stops between crucial nodes have been deemed the future. The rapid transit bus system is estimated to cost $75 million—much of which would be allocated to purchasing land for bus lanes and transit nodes—which goes well beyond the maximum of $25 million in federal grants that could be used to mitigate the costs.

Even if the funding challenges were resolved, aligning the interests of the instrumental parties has proven challenging. UDOT received fierce local opposition after proposing widening the corridor on S.R. 248. Bus lanes in the shoulder meant to bypass traffic on S.R. 224 have proven ineffective when it snows as UDOT plows don’t prioritize clearing those lanes at times when they would be most useful. County officials suggest the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA)—which controls the land of the proposed Mayflower Mountain Resort near the Jordanelle—and Wasatch County should also participate as part of a wider regional effort.

In the case of the proposed rapid bus transit system, City Hall envisions placing the Park City node in the to-be-developed Bonanza Park arts and culture district on Bonanza Drive. County officials think the node should take commuters all the way to Main Street, whereas City officials feel a proposed aerial transit system would ideally whisk people to resorts, shops and restaurants. County and City councils are set to meet on February 5 to better define the roles each will play in the future project. Ideally, they find a way to bury petty impulses about who’s the boss and play nice in a way that benefits people from each of their constituencies.

The always thorny topic of rising housing costs in the area is also inextricably tied to transit and will continue to affect discussions. An expanded transit system would require a substantial increase in employees including drivers and maintenance workers. Mirroring the larger employment shortage in the area, some city councilors feel those positions would be difficult to fill. Park City Councilor Becca Gerber has posed concerns about a “workforce rebellion”—in whatever form that may take—that could exacerbate the dearth of workers and lead to a further decline in the level of service a resort-based economy depends on to thrive. Without a way for workers to live or commute to Park City, it’s growing increasingly difficult to see a way out of the predicament.

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Tony Gill
Tony Gill
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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