Did Summit County Council members commit the cardinal sin by trashing a recent transportation study designed to find solutions to potential transportation problems? Probably … and that’s a good thing.
A few months ago Summit County started a transportation study, predicated on a Governor’s Office report that says population will grow by 85% in the Snyderville Basin by 2040. The County paid a consulting company $135,000 to hold public meetings and recommend a course of action. The Park Record now reports that Summit County officials are displeased with transportation study results. Council member Roger Armstrong said, “Rather than bring us something that didn’t work, I would have loved to see some creativity. I think that is what I was expecting and what I thought we were paying for but it’s not what we got and I was disappointed. I didn’t feel like it was creative. We need to take a step back and start to think of transit issues differently.” County engineer Leslie Crawford said, “We were promised innovative solutions and I don’t think we got that. I definitely have my job cut out for me to come up with some innovative solutions and the stuff we need to explore. And I think it will help us succeed in the long run.”
So, what was the “solution” proposed by the consultants in the report? Buses. We know. That’s not exactly revolutionary. However, that’s not really the takeaway from the study. Here is what we got from the report, given the stated goal of keeping traffic at today’s level:
- In the future, public transportation will need to handle 45% of all people traveling around the basin. Right now it handles about 5.5%.
- In 2040, daily public transportation will need to serve 133,000 passengers per day (or 22 million annually) to keep traffic at today’s volume. Right now, all of UTA serves 21 million riders per year.
- 282 buses will need to be in operation at one time versus 16 now.
- In order to incent enough people to use public transportation, a mandatory charge of $4-$5 per hour for parking across Park City and the Snyderville Basin would need to be enacted.
- A bus system to handle the stated passenger load would cost $43 million annually to operate. Right now the entire Summit County budget is about $50 million.
So, our officials have said they were disappointed in the recommendation of buses and that they were looking for something more creative. Yet what the report really highlights is the problem that has to be solved. We now know we have to find some way of getting 133,000 people off the road every day. We just have to find a solution. When we say “we“, we really we mean our elected officials and government employees are now tasked with finding a solution. They basically called their consultant’s report a rehash of everything that was already known and said we needed to start over. However, they already spent $135K on that rehash.
So, it is our opinion that they blew their wad and now its up to them to come up with an idea or two that will solve our problem. As the old saying goes, “don’t criticize unless you have a solution.” To her credit, Leslie Crawford, the County Engineer, has stated that it is now obvious the County needs to come up with the right solution. We applaud her initiative. We just hope that the county can back up the bravado.
So, why do we say they committed the cardinal sin?
Simple. There are competing entities (Summit County, Park City, Wasatch County, UTA, Mountain Accord). Any solution will be expensive. The proposed problem is 20-30 years off. There is no easy solution here.
Therefore, succeeding is an almost impossible task. Yet since this has been labeled as one of the most important issues that the county faces and they were willing to spend $135,000 on consultants, we know that failure is not an option. So, we are in the hands of the Summit County Council (Roger Armstrong, Claudia McMullin, Kim Carson, Dave Ure, and Chris Robinson), the County Engineer (Leslie Crawford), the Summit County Community Development department (headed by Pat Putt), and a few others. If they succeed in devising a logical plan that meets the communities need they should be rewarded either through re-election or increased salaries. If they fail then they should face the appropriate consequences.
We have smart people involved in our government. In some ways it’s good that they are now personally responsible for the success or failure of finding a solution to one of the most important issues facing Summit County. Now, instead of getting mad at the drivers around you as you wait in afternoon ski traffic, you have someone personally to blame. Do we really think [pick a name] can solve this crisis by themselves? No. But will that scrutiny and focus perhaps drive our leaders to actually come up with something? Yes.
We’ll be waiting to hear about some of those out of the box ideas.