Park City Looks to the Sky for Transit Solutions

The calendar may have turned to a new decade, but the endless drumbeat of debate surrounding Park City traffic issues goes on. Death, taxes and all that. Anyone who’s ever been backed up past the I-80 exit ramp in Kimball Junction on a powder day or languished in traffic on S.R. 248 between U.S. 40 and the high school knows the traffic problem is worsening and will reach an eventual breaking point. The development boom—which includes the Park City and Deer Valley parking lots and the new arts and culture district—will place increased demands on existing transportation infrastructure, so Park City officials are being forced to think outside the box in finding solutions to the traffic crunch.

The status quo is barely tenable. What used to be peak holiday and powder day issues have become everyday rush-hour occurrences. The city and county haven’t ignored the crises—they introduced new park and ride locations like the one in Ecker Hill and put in a new bus line that goes all the way out to Summit Park—but they’ve resisted other ideas. UDOT proposed widening S.R. 248 to five lanes for its entire length between U.S. 40 and S.R. 224, but after pressure from many Park City residents—including council members who live adjacent to the proposed construction—the project was scrapped despite analysis showing intersections would fail by 2040 without improvements.

The rejection of that plan has been met with credible accusations of nimbyism. The town’s suggested solution of adding a bus lane is comically insufficient. While the stated goal of reducing single-occupancy vehicles entering town is admirable, it’s impractical for many of the thousands of the commuters who come from Summit and Wasatch Counties, such as parents dropping off their kids at schools on S.R. 248. Similarly, the restricted Old Town Drop and Load Zones aimed at reducing congestion on Main Street are a good idea but are rife with issues, including the $200 annual permit fees that are a major impediment to the rideshare drivers whose services the town is trying to incentivize.

That brings us to the pie-in-the-sky idea currently being debated: a network of gondolas in town connecting resorts to Main Street to transit hubs and neighborhoods. An aerial transit network transit is ambitious, but not without precedent. Telluride has a gondola that whisks people between the mountain village and town. Park City itself operated three aerial tramways to move miners and ore all over town in the first half of the 20th century. Details remain scant, and many obstacles from aesthetics to logistics to funding remain. Whether Parkites end up gliding over town in a comprehensive aerial transit system remains to be seen, but at least Park City officials are looking in a new direction: up.

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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