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Silver Springs, you aren’t getting your bus back but there may be alternatives

If you haven’t been following the drama of Silver Springs and the loss of their bus route, here is the tldr;:

Park City and Summit County had a falling out over the current bus system. Summit County is making their own bus system called High Valley Transit (HVT). As part of that, they are canceling the 7 Pink bus service that runs through Silver Springs. Silver Springs residents are up in arms because it impacts their transportation options. Many claim they moved there because of the bus.

So, that’s where we are. Silver Spring residents are writing letters to the Park Record. They are calling their County Council people. A few have sent in comments to the Park Rag. I’m sympathetic, but I also pay attention to what our leaders say. In Wednesday’s County Council meeting, HVT Board president Kim Carson and Summit County Regional Transportation Planning Director, Caroline Rodriguez, spoke about current plans and answered questions from council persons.

According to the county council conversation, here is why your leaders think the current HVT plans are good for you (and why your bus isn’t coming back).

  • Huge buses are going through your neighborhood with “no one” on them. That’s a waste of resources and bad for the environment.
  • Today buses come every 30 minutes. HVT plans are better because “on-demand” minivans will pick you up in 15 minutes. It’s actually better for you whether you believe it or not.
  • Neighboring neighborhoods can now call for pickups, instead of having to walk to your neighborhood. It’s a benefit for others.
  • There is no time. They are establishing temporary offices at park-and-rides and getting in vehicles (hopefully) a week or two before launch. There is no time for changes.

I see the flaws in these arguments. For instance, yesterday morning, at many times, there were more people on the 7-Pink in Silver Springs than on the 10 Electric from KJ to PC. However, I think leaders have made up their minds — for now.

The “for now” is the important part. Kim Carson did say that they want to be flexible. They want to alter their plans based on how the system functions. So, Silver Springs residents, I’d give up on the fight to get a diesel bus careening through your burb. It’s not going to happen. However, I wouldn’t settle for a generic micro-transit alternative either.

I was messaging back and forth with someone who lives in Silver Springs and they had a good point. If the micro-transit would pick them up and take them to the Canyons or a central spot like Smith’s in Kimball Junction, that may be good enough. I think the Silver Springs’ fear is that they will need to take micro-transit to another bus stop, transfer, and then get to the Canyons or Smith’s to shop.

So, why not propose that Silver Springs micro-transit have expanded drop-offs for a trial period. If every pickup ends up being one family in a car headed to the Canyons or KJ, then expanded service doesn’t make sense. It’s no better than the family hopping in a car. If there is really the demand that is being signaled, then perhaps it would make sense to continue on-demand, micro-transit to a few extended locations like the Canyons and into Kimball Junction. If demand is big enough, perhaps a small shuttle bus would make sense.

Silver Springs is a little different from many neighborhoods in the Basin. For example, in Jeremy Ranch, HVT micro-transit is an addition to what we have had. In Silver Springs, the current HVT plan is seen as a subtraction. By providing Silver Springs with a chance to show that it makes sense to provide an expanded micro-transit, it may bridge the gap.

The diesel bus isn’t coming back to Silver Springs, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives. Perhaps my proposal isn’t what Silver Springs wants, but maybe Silver Spring residents can come up with something that meets both the HVT and residents’ needs.

Note, the video of the meeting seems to have disappeared but here is the link in case it comes back.

Comments

18 Comments

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Walt

If the minivan just takes you to 224 where you wait around in the snow for a bus, then have to figure out how to get home, forget it.

If it takes you to Smiths or the Canyons transit hub, it’s fine.

I guess we’ll see. I honestly can’t tell where it’ll take people.

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Brandi Connolly

Caroline told me where it takes you depends on demand at the time of the ride…so when I call a car I may have to load my kids and all their equipment into a mini-van only to get off unload all their gear to load it back onto a bus to then take the cabriolet up to the canyons…but I won’t know the outcome until I book a ride.

Also I question the ability of the shuttle to handle my family and their 5 bikes … if they can’t handle it my 3yo will now be biking across 224 at a stop light.

Either give us back the bus (electric replacement not diesel)-smaller shuttle through the neighborhood would be fine too- or give us a tunnel so we can safely get to the other side of 224 with small kids and bikes in tow to get the lime bus into town in the summer (then we bike home).

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Parkrag

Brandi-

You hit the nail on the head. You need to know the expectation before you even book the ride. It can’t be variable or you can’t plan. If you can’t plan, you’ll drive.

I think Silver Springs is different. Something is being removed from your world. I believe the County thinks that not enough people ride the bus so they got ride of it. Yet, I believe the neighborhood’s residents are owed the chance to show that minivans with expanded destinations or that a smaller bus would be utilized.

If so, great! Someone is riding the bus. If not, then the opportunity was presented.

I think your neighborhood should present at alternative.

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Walt

Yeah, if crossing 224 was safe, this would be less of an issue (though it would still be a bummer during ski season). But we never got the tunnel/bridge that was used to promote the bond in 2014. Presumably we never will.

I personally see this as the county admitting defeat – locals are not going to ride the bus, and the county is not going to cater to them. The microtransit thing will be too much effort for almost everyone, so the bus system will go back to being just for shuttling tourists, and our traffic problem will keep getting worse.

How much could I sell my house for again? Maybe it’s time to move on.

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Brian Connolly

Not to mention, the County using this as an excuse when we JUST FOUND OUT about the County’s plans to take away our bus line is pretty unacceptable: “There is no time. They are establishing temporary offices at park-and-rides and getting in vehicles (hopefully) a week or two before launch. There is no time for changes.” They wanted to take away our bus line, they made plans to take away our bus line, they signed a contract to take away our bus line, and we just found out about it a week ago.

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Parkrag

They wanted to take away our bus line, they made plans to take away our bus line, they signed a contract to take away our bus line

Yep. Summit County often plays the long game. They don’t tell you what is happening or why they are doing it and then it bites you in the ass. Then there is no time to fix it.

And yes, empty buses are a problem. They actually spent $10 million on Ecker (or actually $5 million because Vail kicked in $, but still real money), because they thought they could have a park and ride off of I-80 where the truck rest area is. Then they found out that the exit ramp wasn’t long enough for UDOT to allow the Park and Ride. So, they went ahead with it and the only entrance was from Kilby. So, it goes generally unused, except as overflow for Woodward.

I do think your neighborhood is being negatively impacted. Yet, as of now there is no recourse. The bus isn’t coming back but I think if you interact with Kim Carson directly and propose alternatives that work for both parties, you may find some common ground.

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Walt

I’m not sure I’d call that “playing the long game”. That term usually means making short term concessions or taking short term losses to get gains in the long term.

In this case they just wanted to do something unpopular (or possibly just didn’t know what they were doing, as usual) and didn’t want public input, so they went ahead and signed contracts to make it fait accompli.

If you want to ram through your proposed solution, it’s effective, I guess. But it’s not “playing the long game”.

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Parkrag

You could be right. What I really meant was they have a vision for how it’s going to be and if that upsets folks today that is an acceptable loss. I think we often see that in Planning. I do think they have a vision for how they see transportation. They want to develop a system that ties in Heber, Kamas, Coalville (once they approve enough development there), and SLC. Going through a neighborhood like Silver Springs isn’t all that important to that long term vision.

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Walt

Assuming most of our traffic is coming from “out of town” (ie Heber/SLC/Kamas) then it might make sense to just have locals drive and try to get tourists not to use cars/ride the bus when they’re here.

If that’s what they want, they need to be more explicit about it, though.

To be fair, too, my daughter and I were by ourselves on the Pink (yet again) this morning, both ways.

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Jackie

It’s super hard to judge how many people were taking the Pink Bus during Covid. We went from riding often, to not at all for a year. Seems a bit premature to take it completely away.

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Brian Connolly

And if empty buses are such a huge problem, why did they spend nearly $10 million on the Ecker Hill Park & Ride and Kilby Road improvements so they can run empty buses to an empty parking lot every 15 minutes?!?!

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Walt

High Valley did a nice Q&A, and the bottom line is: Silver Springs residents like to complain about losing the bus, but they don’t ride it. If we all rode the bus regularly, we’d still have a bus.

You reap what you sow, as usual. I was pretty shocked by how few people board in Silver Springs (pre-Covid).

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Brian

But they also failed to provide comparisons to other segments of the bus lines, so it was hard to put those ridership #’s in context. I specifically asked for the boarding/alighting statistics for the Ecker Hill Park & Ride in particular, and they claimed not to have those #’s.

I thought they let their real attitude toward this slip when they said that we’ve had our own bus line for years even though other Basin neighborhoods don’t, and that’s not fair, so we’re not gonna get to keep it.

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Parkrag

Brian-

I wasn’t able to watch the meeting due to day job requirements. If you recorded the Silver Springs numbers, can you let me know what they were and how they characterized them? I record the number of people on buses per the My Stop Mobile App. I’d love to see if I can get you that number for Ecker Hill.

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Sarah Altschuler

“I thought they let their real attitude toward this slip when they said that we’ve had our own bus line for years even though other Basin neighborhoods don’t, and that’s not fair, so we’re not gonna get to keep it.”

That is a very interesting point that I had not thought of when they mentioned that. Instead I thought of the multiple Park City neighborhoods that have bus routes. Too be fair, Trailside did have the Brown, but that got shut down from lack of use as well. I’ll seriously doubt if anyone on that panel has ever ridden a Park City bus.

Post-Q&A (and points made by Park Rag) I can honestly say that I can see the other side of this. This new system does have the potential to serve a lot more people in the basin. I and my family are one of the few cases negatively impacted by this. I’m willing to give it a try, and I sincerely hope this works well. Hoping for failure just to be on the right side of the argument never helps, so I’m rooting for this to be great … or at least as good as it was for us using the Pink in Silver Springs. On the flip side, except for us not having to park our personal vehicle somewhere, this doesn’t do anything to remove a vehicle from the road for our family of 5; 6 if we bring Granny. We will use a whole microtransit vehicle ourselves, while not being able to leave booster and car seats in the vehicle for our outing. We’re definitely going to have to invest in a lighter car seat…

The more disappointing thing that I took away from the session is that we will likely NEVER have a safe 224 crossing option. This is unacceptable adjacent to a school, and the community has made it clear (REPEATEDLY) that this is something we want and are willing to invest in. Seems to me that we could take a look a what the widest the road could become with the RT bus lanes and plan a bridge based on that. You take it diagonally from the Parley’s Park Elem side to the path/trail side and connect it to the existing trail. The PC Nursery side with its driveway, etc. should be totally avoided. Bam – initial planning done! Now build the thing so that the families that can still afford to live here can get to school and play!

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Karla

I do find it somewhat humorous that Walt is saying “The county needs to do better at intercepting SLC traffic” while Brian is saying “The county is incompetent because they just spent millions of dollars on a parking lot that people don’t even use.”

Walt, I don’t think the county has been ambiguous on this at all, so allow me to speak for them and clarify their position very explicitly: They see it as absolutely crucial to intercept traffic from SLC and get those skiers and visitors out of their cars and onto buses, and they are therefore willing to make a best-effort attempt to build a park-and-ride facility with frequent bus service, including operating it as a loss leader for several years with the hope of it gaining momentum. Given the realities of the constraints placed on them by UDOT (e.g. the plan to create a highway exit right at the Ecker Hill Park and Ride falling through), I see this as an acceptable effort.

Brian, in government, you don’t make a $5 million capital investment into a years-long vision simply to second guess and say “Brian is right; we’ve had this stinking parking lot for 2 years (1 of which during a pandemic) and have seen barely any ridership; it’s long past time to forget the parking lot and redirect all those empty buses away from our long-term vision of traffic interception, and instead move them back towards Silver Springs so we can keep hemorrhaging money on a route that Brian uses (along with exactly zero of his neighbors).”

Since UDOT is not going to ban cars from entering SR-224 from I-80 any time soon, and since Vail is not going to be building a gondola from Ecker Hill Park and Ride to Canyons Village any time soon, the reality is that the best option for the county is to build an empty parking lot and to beg and plead with SLC drivers to consider using it. Yes, that involves compromise, including reducing services to other neighborhoods that are currently objectively over-served.

These self-contradictory attitudes from locals are a tire by now::

“224 needs to be less crowded, but my 30,000 neighbors and I each want to own single-family homes in low-density neighborhoods that are all at least 5 miles away from the nearest amenities.”

“There are too many people in this town, but I want bus service to run through my neighborhood with high frequency.”

“We need high-quality urban infrastructure, but I want the economy to go back to the way it was in the 80’s before we had all these tourists.”

“Housing needs to be made more affordable, but I want all development over two stories to be banned.”

“The county needs to get all of this planned out perfectly the very first time, but I want them to stop wasting money on all these consultants and running all these BS studies.”

“The county needs to build this piece of infrastructure, but I want my taxes to decrease.”

I’m afraid it’s the voters that need to do some soul-searching, not the county.

Brian and Walt: I urge the two of you to come together and create a plan that reconciles your two vastly different goals with an outline for a better execution than what the county is currently doing. The day you do that is the day you’re both elected to the county council.

In the meantime, this comment section is getting to be a bit too much.

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Parkrag

Karla-

Your tone comes off condescending. It feels similar to the age-old cry of NIMBY from people who don’t want to talk about the issues but just want to assign a label to people who have legitimate concerns. I am not surprised that Brian or Walt has not responded. You won’t likely get a discussion from them on the topics. Maybe you just wanted to scream.

So, I’ll respond. First, you attribute quotes to Brian and Walt. I don’t see those quotes anywhere. You appear to believe you completely understand their viewpoints, state your view of their viewpoints as facts, and then attempt to tear your-interpretation-of-their-viewpoints apart. It’s this sort of crap that stops people from having discussions.

That said, let’s go to your statements:

Karla: “They [Summit County Government] see it as absolutely crucial to intercept traffic from SLC and get those skiers and visitors out of their cars and onto buses, and they are therefore willing to make a best-effort attempt to build a park-and-ride facility with frequent bus service are therefore willing to make a best-effort attempt to build a park-and-ride facility with frequent bus service, including operating it as a loss leader for several years with the hope of it gaining momentum. Given the realities of the constraints placed on them by UDOT… I see this as an acceptable effort.”

Josh: Summit County planned to do the Ecker Hill Park and Ride and then found out that UDOT wouldn’t allow them direct access from I-80. Instead of pausing and reconsidering, they went forward with a park and ride that requires, if actually used, for interstate traffic to travel along many family neighborhoods. This is dangerous. Luckily, I suppose, it is not used. Well, I shouldn’t say that. It is important to note that Vail paid for half the lot and is allowed something like 400 parking spots. However, who appears to be using it is Woodward ( a competitor of Vail) for overflow parking. Let’s see how long that lasts. Millions of dollars were spent. Let me know when millions of value have been achieved. It’s a “sounds good” project that costs millions of dollars.

Karla: “Brian is right; we’ve had this stinking parking lot for 2 years (1 of which during a pandemic) and have seen barely any ridership; it’s long past time to forget the parking lot and redirect all those empty buses away from our long-term vision of traffic interception, and instead move them back towards Silver Springs so we can keep hemorrhaging money on a route that Brian uses (along with exactly zero of his neighbors).”

Josh: I vacillate on both sides of the Silver Springs bus issue. It’s a perk that seems was afforded to Silver Springs at some point. Yet, not a lot of people take advantage of it. However, there is no other group that is fighting for the bus. No one else cares about what is happening. That should tell you something.

I think Summit County should be harnessing this group to spout the virtues of bus riding. It’s like if you were Amazon and made decisions that screwed your best customers. Maybe there are not a lot of Brian’s and Walt’s but they are super users. In most real-world business cases, you support your super users.

On all your six quotes at the end, you seem to be setting up the typical strawman arguments that developers set up. I of course can’t speak for Brian and Walt.

However, I can speak for myself. Summit County needs to stop opening up development. We have a General Plan item that prevents expanding development rights. We need to close down any discussion of building out the tech park with 1,100 new units. We need to shut down the discussion of building in Highland Estates.

We need to support existing entitlements. They are the owner’s rights (good or bad), but we don’t need to add more.

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Walt

Hey Karla, I’m not sure where you think I said anything about intercepting traffic from SLC. For what it’s worth, I’m fully in support of getting more people (from SLC or otherwise) on the bus. I have no particular opinion on the park and ride, I assume you were referring to Brian’s comments on that.

Likewise, I’d support (but would never get elected to council, this is all crazy unpopular):

-Charging real money for parking – probably the easiest way to reduce traffic problems. $50 anywhere near the resort, $20 in Kimball Jct. Free at the Park n’ Ride.

-Building beyond 2 stories. I agree that it makes no sense to ask for urban amenities and affordable housing and then refuse to build tall apartment buildings, which is what you’d want to build if you actually want affordable housing. Alternately, we can collectively admit that we don’t actually want that many people around and drop the affordable housing goal entirely.

-Increased taxes (maybe dramatically increased) to support better alternative transportation/more school facilities/etc.

So I’m not sure I’m as much of a hypocrite as you think, but you’re welcome to judge me however you want, I guess. I agree that many PC voters want contradictory things (or at least claim to). I’m lucky enough to be able to live anywhere I want, and for now PC is it. I could see things getting crowded and crappy enough that my family leaves, though, which isn’t something I could have conceived of 7 or 8 years ago. C’est la vie.


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