We decided we should spend some time riding Park City Buses, if we were going to understand what’s working and what’s not with our transit system. We headed to the bus stop in Kimball Junction by Silver Mountain to await our 2:53 PM pickup (the bus was a bit late). A nice couple from Michigan was already waiting. They said hi and we asked how the skiing had been on their trip. They replied that it was nice on the top of the mountain but down low was pretty slushy; overall they had never skied in such nice weather though (great attitude!).
As the bus pulled up, they asked us if this bus would take them to Main Street. They wanted to go shop and have dinner. It was a “7 Pink” bus pulling up, so we responded that it would eventually get to Main Street, but there could be a better option. So we said they should ask the bus driver. We could have replied, “Well you should download My Stop Mobile, Park City’s $1.2 million application from the Apple App store” but there isn’t really time for that when the bus is pulling up.
When asked by the couple, the bus driver replied, “oh no… you should take the Brown bus line”. The couple got off the bus and headed back to wait. The bus drove off, and as we looked at the couple sitting there, we wondered how long would they wait. It turns out that they would have plenty of time to download the MyStop Mobile App.
We looked up bus transportation data and it told us that if they would have taken the 7 Pink, they would have gotten to Main Street at 4:45. Granted, that is almost an hour later (ugh). However, if they waited on the Brown bus, they waited until 4:51 for it to pick them up and it wouldn’t have dropped them off until 5:17 (double ugh). Oh, and that same 7 Pink bus even came back through the same stop. So, hopefully they got wise and just hopped on it.
What is more likely is that they hopped in their car and drove to Main Street.
Now, is this just an anecdote? Sure. In this case were the buses running late? Yes. Does this happen all the time? We don’t know.
What we are sure of is that public transportation failed this couple. It also highlights the inherent problem with our public transportation system. The buses are scheduled too far apart and when something goes wrong (like being late), it causes a huge impact. Then, if we think about the times when buses are late due to heavy traffic (special events, big snow, rush hour, etc.) it’s also the same time we want more people to take the buses. So, the times we need buses are likely the times they fail.
So, you may say that we should run the buses more frequently. However, that requires that the demand is there to justify it. We’ve been looking at the ridership data, and except on a few key routes between PCMR and Deer Valley, it seems really low. We will share some of that data as soon as we have enough information to draw a full picture.
It also highlights a technological problem. Given that Park City has invested so much in an automated system to track buses, this information should be shared with their drivers. A bus driver should be able to easily pull up a screen with popular destinations, and then the system could use their current location and real-time data to enable the driver to tell that poor couple from Michigan, “normally you’d take the 8 Brown bus but today you should ride with me. We may be taking the scenic route but its the fastest way to get there and you’ll see a lot of what makes Park City great.”
Instead, the couple likely headed to Wendy’s to get a Frosty for their car drive in.