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Transportation Decisions Need to Be Grounded in Reality

Over the weekend we had a discussion with a friend, that was sparked by Friday’s transportation discussion between Park City Mayor Jack Thomas and KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher. That conversation indicated that buses were likely the only feasible “solution” to our areas’s transportation problems.

We asked our friend who lives in Jeremy Ranch and works in Prospector about busing. Specifically:

  • How long does it take you to drive into work each day?
  • How long would you be willing to wait for a bus, if you were to ride it to work?
  • How many bus transfers would you be willing to make?
  • How long from door to door are you wiling to tolerate?
  • How far will you walk from bus stop to work?

You see, we hear all the time that buses are the solution. The county is even upping the ante by looking at putting a transit station in Kimball Junction. Yet, we read articles like “Buses are for Other People” and we try to understand the disconnect. It seems each time our government officials talk about buses, they are speaking at the 30,000 foot level.

So, we decided to ask someone on the ground that doesn’t bus today, and who has looked at it, what it would take to get her on a bus. The responses? Right now it takes about 20 minutes to drive in to get to work by 8:30. She’d be willing to wait 15 minutes for a bus. She wouldn’t do more than one transfer. She’d be willing for the entire run to take about 40 minutes. She’d be willing to walk somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes to get to work. She also pointed out that she lives about a mile from the bus stop in Jeremy Ranch, so she would have to drive and park there (unless she wanted to walk another 20 minutes).

Using Google Transit we then looked up what her commute would look like today:

  • She’d need to leave her residence by about 7:20 in order to get to the Jeremy Ranch Park and Ride.
  • Her bus would arrive at 7:30 AM (buses come every 30 minutes).
  • It’s takes 15 minutes and 12 stops to get to Kimball Junction. So, she would get there by 7:45AM, according to bus schedules.
  • The bus for Park City leaves at 7:45. So, as long as timing is perfect, she’d make that. Otherwise, she would wait (and be very late for work).
  • She would arrive at Hotel Park City at 7:53, after 15 stops.
  • She would the transfer to another bus that would get her to the Park City Marriott by 8:09.

You contrast that with hopping in the car at about 8AM and going door to door. That said, this fits many of the criteria she laid out, but would an average person choose this path? We wouldn’t and this is actually one of the best routes we’ve seen. Leaving work and going to her residence requires even more time and more walking, as well.

We think that’s why buses have a hard time. It’s complicated for people to get their heads around… and no, an iPhone app that helps with scheduling, is not an answer.

Now, if you make a mandatory minimum$30 parking charge, you may move people to embrace busing. $30 to park at Smith’s to get your groceries … $30 to park at Cole Sports to buy a present … $30 to park at City Hall to go to work … . Then you might see people riding the bus.

While we wait for those “incentives” to be put in place, we’ll be contemplating the real world. Buses sound good, but in reality its a non-starter, unless behaviors are forcibly changed through draconian measures. Those draconian measures, when implemented, would impact the low and middle class more. You would have to charge enough to convince the wealthy to change behavior, unfortunately that would be a death blow to Park City’s working population. It would be completely regressive.

So, in our minds, buses are as likely to succeed as a $65 million per mile light rail… just for different reasons. We need better ideas, not just easy ones.




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