If you think about our transportation issues, typically answers start with buses and end with light rail. They may include dedicated lanes for the buses. Long range plans may go a slight step further and include getting easements along popular travel ways to widen roads for rail or buses lanes. If we think out of the box, plans may include high speed gondolas that connect locations within Park City.
Yet, all these solutions suffer from the same problem: locals (and many visitors) would still need to drive, park, and wait on these methods of transport. There is only a small segment of the population within short walking distance of transportation lines. It’s likely most people that live in Summit Park, Pinebrook, Jeremy Ranch, Silver Creek, Trailside, Silver Springs, or Sun Peak live more than an easy walk to a rail stop. Therefore that impediment will always curtail adoption of public transport.
The question our leaders need to ask is if they think people will drive 5 minutes, park, wait, and then take public transportation. I think that’s a pipe dream. Now, it may be more likely that visitors may take public transportation; however, our government’s own studies have show that local traffic (traffic starting and ending in the Basin) will overtake other types of traffic in the next few years. This means, even if visitors coming into the Basin do use public transportation, our “locals problem” will only continue to grow.
With that in mind, Phys.org has an article about Germany starting to build bicycle highways. According to the article, “Aided by booming demand for electric bikes, which take the sting out of uphill sections, the new track should take 50,000 cars off the roads every day, an RVR study predicts.” The great thing about the Snyderville Basin is that we already have these “highways.” They are the paved trails we’ve constructed over the past 20 years.
In our case, using E-Bikes on these paved trails solves a number of problems that trains and buses don’t:
- Most person in the Basin can start at their house and easily ride to a path which will connect to their destination. No parking. No Waiting.
- A person can ride the bike all the way to their destination. They don’t have to get off the bus and walk another 10 minutes to get to work.
- An E-Bike is slower than a car (maybe slightly faster when there is traffic) but it’s faster than the bus in many cases.
- An E-Bike solves the problems of our hills. While many people take traditional bikes around the Basin, the E-bike enables those people, who have to traverse large hills, to easily commute.
- An E-Bike still can be peddled, and therefore fits into many of our resident’s desire for exercise.
- With an E-Bike people are still “out in the mountains” and not cooped up on a bus.
- An E-Bike doesn’t have the negative stigma associated with public transportation.
Of course, our trails are not a commuting solution 365 days a year (for most people). However, for the period between March and November, paved trails could take a significant burden off of our roads. There may be other ways to use our trails for transportation, in addition to E-Bikes. E-Bikes just seem like the low hanging fruit of options and one that doesn’t require too much investment. I know that Summit County has proposed some money dedicated to E-Bike initiatives (for 2018 or 2019). However, it would be nice to see the city and county work together to look at E-Bike options in the short term. Perhaps Sustainability Departments in our local government could put together some sort of group purchase (like was done for solar panels) that would get the cost down. Or perhaps the city and county could purchase and lease bikes to residents. I’m sure there are a lot of alternatives. What I’m not sure is whether we can wait until 2019 to see if solutions like E-Bikes have legs.
If we can figure out the traffic issues for the non-powder days (March-November), that could let us focus on a smaller problem. We’d no longer have this goliath problem OF FIXING TRANSPORTATION. We could focus on solving ski traffic twenty or thirty days a year. During the heart of the winter perhaps we use smaller buses that run into the neighborhoods and stop at all the places school buses stop (maybe there is a small charge for this). Perhaps we partner with Uber or Lyft for group rides. Perhaps we decide we want to spend $200 million on rail for 30 days a year (when people may actually use it). At least, our problem would seem smaller and more manageable.
When we look at our great accomplishments in the Park City area over the past few decades most people will cite open space and then trails. While our trails already get good use, perhaps they could also serve another use, and provide a large part of the solution to our transportation problems.