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To Solve Transportation Problems, You First Have to Accept Density

I was talking with a Friend of the Park Rag and he said something quite profound: “If you want to solve our transportation problems, you have to have to create density.” What does that mean? It means that if we want to use typical transportation solutions (like buses and rail) to decrease traffic, people must live in locations tightly clustered together. Likewise, the places people go must also be tightly clustered together. Said another way, if most people live close to one of a handful of bus stops and they are also only headed to one of a handful of locations, then Park City buses can have more runs and decrease times to destinations.

When you think of it in those terms, it really focuses you on the issue. Buses and the Subway work in big cities like NYC because there are so many people clustered together in tight places. In the Park City area, you may have a couple of bus stops in Trailside area but because homes are not clustered together, the actual distance between most people’s homes and the bus stop makes using the bus unattractive. Likewise, because there are so many areas to service, the buses don’t come that frequently. Therefore, bus usage is low.

Now imagine that the Boyer Tech Park (that big open space on the west side of 224 near Hugo Coffee) was where all new residential development happened in the basin (impossible I know… but work with me here). You could have buses stop outside the development every 5 minutes. Further imagine that those buses went directly to where the people wanted them to go: a bus to Main Street, a bus to Canyons, a bus to SLC, a bus to Prospector, a bus to Quinn’s Junction. Now you have a solution. You’d wait 5 minutes, go to your destination, and get there nearly as fast as a car. Even my wife would ride the bus. It’s possible because there would be thousands of people living in a small area.

Yet, reality sets in. Most of the Park City population doesn’t live in a place like that. We are spread out. Our homes are not clustered and our destinations are not clustered. What a proper transportation system seems to need is ORDER and what we have is CHAOS. So, how do we achieve order out of chaos? Future development would need to be clustered together. You may have heard of this under another term, receiving areas.

“Receiving Areas” is a term used by planning personnel where development rights can be transferred from one location to another that achieves the holy grail … DENSITY. So, perhaps you are a land owner who owns 100 acres of land throughout the Basin and have the rights to build one home per 40 acres on that land. That would mean you could build 2 homes on that property (not very dense). Instead, Summit County could provide ways for you to trade that land for the right to build more homes in specific receiving areas (more dense). The reason Summit County would want to make that trade is to prevent urban sprawl (i.e. homes on every piece of land in the Basin). If the county can make that trade, all of a sudden they get density and limit the dreaded urban sprawl.

That all sounds great … until it comes into your backyard. If you are a Jeremy Ranch resident, you may not want 400 units of density built at the entrance to Jeremy Ranch. If you live on Old Ranch Road, 200 condos in your neighborhood may be a worse solution to you than 20 homes dotted throughout the Basin (even though those 20 homes would be classified as urban sprawl).

Therein lies the challenge. In order to introduce effective transportation solutions, like buses and rail, we need density. In order to achieve density, current neighborhoods will be impacted with more clusters of development. Adding large complexes of homes and condos to existing neighborhoods may not be viewed favorably. Yet, unless that happens, transportation efforts will likely be ineffective at solving our issues, because no one will use them.

It truly comes down to either accepting density or traffic. The question is, which is the lesser evil?



peter yogman

The traffic problem is not caused by people who live here. This article makes no sense to me.


Peter, I guess me may have to agree to disagree on current traffic problems. I believe locals make up a significant portion of our traffic issues. If you look at 248 at 7:45 AM, when school’s in session, locals are contributing, if not causing, those traffic issues. Likewise, Kimball Junction traffic at 5PM (almost any day) seems to be locals.

I do know that many of our planning personnel view density as part of a transportation solution. So, if you don’t think density has anything to do with planning, you should probably start gathering research and facts in order to change their minds.

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