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Feeding the Beast … Is Traffic Really a Problem?

We’ve all sat in traffic on a random Friday at about 4:30. I know that traffic in town during the week after Christmas is horrible. We’ve all read about CARMAGEDDON (some even experienced it). Almost all of us have experienced BLINKING LIGHT SYNDROME when stoplights in Kimball Junction start blinking red.

Yet, is it really a problem? More importantly, if it really is a problem, is it a problem we can solve?

The reason I ask is that the city and county are poised to spend multiples of millions of dollars on trying to solve the “problem.” During the last few years, it seems there have been countless stories in the Park Record and on KPCW about how bad traffic is. However, as time goes on, I wonder if we are all just being ginned up, for lack of anything better to talk about.

Ask any of your friends or family visiting from Washington DC, Florida, or Los Angeles if the traffic is bad here and I’d bet they’d say “what traffic?”. A couple of years ago my sister was from Chicago during the week before New Years. I asked her if the traffic would stop here from coming back…she said…you guessed it, “what traffic?

I realize that traffic is probably worse here than during the 80’s when Park City was really a one horse town, but do we have a problem? You may say “who cares. What harm can it do to make traffic better?” The problem is that “traffic” often becomes an incubator for other projects and solutions. It leads to a myriad of solutions, poised to save us from what may become a REAL PROBLEM, but isn’t now.

I’ll be the first to admit that traffic could become a real issue if economic growth continues around Park City. Yet, in Park City does it regularly take 3 hours to get home from skiing on a Sunday? No. That’s what folks in Denver face. Does it take an hour to go 2 miles? Maybe once a year… maybe.

So, do we have a traffic problem? If your definition of problem is having to wait at all… then yes. However, in the scheme of things, the wait just isn’t that long. And the question we need to ask as citizens is whether it is really a problem worth pouring millions into.

Every time we complain or tell others that “traffic was horrible,” when it was only a minor inconvenience, we are feeding the beast. We are telling our elected representatives that they must solve our traffic problem. They will add more bus routes. They will increase the frequency of buses. They will find ways to make it too expensive or cumbersome to drive. This is all in the name of “solving” traffic… because the people told them it was a problem, They are doing what they are supposed to do — listen to the people.

So, I ask the following questions of fellow citizens, “Do we have enough of a traffic problem, to throw millions of dollars at it?” If you say yes, “What then is the likelihood that our local governments can actually solve it?”

If you answer yes to the first question and give them better than 50% odds on the second question, then I suppose constantly complaining about traffic makes sense. However, if you don’t think it’s worth it or you don’t think they can solve it, all complaining is going to do is likely waste time, money, and resources that could spent more effectively elsewhere.

We live in a great place with many great elected officials that actually often listen to their constituents. That’s rare. We just need to ensure that they are hearing the right things. If not, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.


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