Postings over the last few days have been a little sparse due to a family vacation to Los Angeles. One of the things I love about travelling is that you get to bring back thoughts and ideas from other places. In the case of LA, some would say it has the worst traffic in the country (perhaps with the exception of the D.C. beltway). It was interesting to look at a place like Los Angeles where they have real traffic issues and contemplate what that means for Park City.
My trip to Los Angeles wasn’t too dissimilar from someone visiting Park City. I flew into Long Beach, was staying about 20 miles away in Manhattan Beach, and had one excursion planned. Otherwise, we planned on walking. Given that, did we even think about ditching the rental car and taking public transportation? Hell no.
Keep in mind, this is in Los Angeles, where their traffic issues dwarf our thrice-a-year CARMAGEDDON concerns. I don’t think my trip to California is too different than your average person visiting Park City. Renting a car for 5 days cost us $130. Parking at the VRBO was free. We had flexibility. We didn’t have to figure out public transportation. We could come and go as we pleased.
You may ask, “But what if traffic was really bad?” Are you kidding me? We sat in bumper to bumper traffic, luckily could use the HOV lane (when it was available), spent 15 minutes hunting for parking when we parked, and spent more time in the car than we would have liked. That said, would I do it any differently? No.
That’s the rub. To get visitors to use public transportation in Park City is going to be quite a chore. For a couple of hundred dollars, most people are going to opt for the rental car (or if they are from SLC… opt for their “free car”). Even if traffic is bad, they’ll deal. I spent a decent portion of our flight home thinking about what it would take to actually change that behavior … or perhaps better stated… what it would take to change my behavior if I was visiting Park City? I believe Park City would need to become the Parking Fee Capital of the World. Parking EVERYWHERE would need to cost at least $30. Park at PCMR, $30. Drive to Fresh Market and park there… another $30. Drive to the hotel and park there… another $30. No business in their right mind would want that, let alone the Chamber of Commerce, so it would have to be a city/county ordinance, which probably isn’t even legal. The level of pain that would likely be required to incent enough people to take public transport isn’t going to happen.
You may then say, “why don’t we concentrate on locals?” The problem is that 2/3 of homes in Park City and 1/3 in the Basin are second homes… effectively making those “locals” very similar to visitors. You could concentrate on the rest of us locals, but again I think people’s willingness to endure a little traffic will outweigh our willingness to figure out public transportation, give up flexibility, and spend just a much time (if not longer) to get from point A to point B.
What I learned from Los Angeles traffic is that people will endure quite a bit before they change their daily behavior (if they ever do). It really makes me wonder if our money is best spent on propping up public transportation (like the Park City SLC Connect Bus) and spending hundreds of thousands on transportation centers … or whether spending that money on point solutions that solve traffic during high congestion events is a better use of money and resources. Perhaps our population and visitors will never be daily bus riders but perhaps we could “learn” to take public transportation for events like the Kimball Arts Festival and during super snow events?
If I had to choose, I’d bet on the latter, especially if our local governments turned all their attention that direction.