This morning on KPCW, County Manager Tom Fisher was talking about the various options to pay for transportation solutions in Summit County (bonds, tax increases, etc). He spoke about one of the components or the process being a wish list of projects that could be presented to citizens, so they know what the options are. It appears the County is doing its best to ensure that a repeat of the School Bond election doesn’t happen — by giving citizens every opportunity to know the SPECIFICS around what will be provided by a new bond or taxes. That’s very good.
Yet, when it comes to transportation solutions in Summit County, the county hasn’t exactly inspired confidence. First, obviously, the traffic can be horrible (we’ve had a problem for years). Second, they spent over $100,000 on consultants that basically told them to run more buses, which was universally derided as a failure. Third, the County Council pushed back on the Mountain Accord in order to get the Accord to provide the county with funds to study transportation impacting us (so our unique viewpoint could be represented). However now the county appears to be backtracking on leading the study saying something like “we think UDOT should take the lead on this since these are roads are managed by UDOT.” UHHH… pretty much every road with trouble in our area (Highway 224, Highway 248, I-80, and occasionally Highway 40) are managed by UDOT… so should we just get out of the transportation business all together and let them handle it? No, we should be leading these efforts (and bringing UDOT and UTA in as necessary).
So, what would inspire more confidence going forward? First, as mentioned above, a list of projects that will be completed using increased taxes goes a long way to helping people understand what our money will be used for. Second, and perhaps as important, we need to understand what the measures of success will be and what success looks like.
Let’s say the county proposes a bond for widening 224 for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Lane. I’m not sure that is even possible given UDOT manages it, but let’s say it is. We as citizens need to know what the impact of this will be. How many cars will take off the roads and at what times? How many travel time minutes will it cut on travel from Park City to I-80 at peak times? Will there be any vehicle reduction (or increase) on 248 due to this? Then, we need to make sure there is a timeframe, method, and funds to judge whether this is a success. There have to be metrics to judge whether this was a good decision.
Likewise, one of my personal favorite projects is using our trails as a mode of transportation. I’d love to see an E-Bike program to maximize multi-modal use of paved trails. It sounds like a great idea (to me). Yet, I don’t know what that would really mean toward solving our transportation problems (when the pencil hits the paper, it may be a useless idea). I’d love to see the same estimate as used above for a BRT lane for multi-modal trails. And of course, if a program is implemented, what metrics will be used to judge the program’s success.
If we are going to consider spending additional, large-level funds on transportation we need to ensure that both program specifics have been communicated to the public and metrics are in place to judge success. It sounds like we are on the way to ensuring the specifics are communicated to citizens. Let’s hope that along with that, our county leaders are planning on putting in place metrics that will let us know what bang to expect for the buck… and then also a way to provide information that will be used to hold Summit County accountable for the success or failure of new transportation solutions.
If they can do those two things, it will go a long way to help rebuilding trust in our leaders’ ability to help solve transportation issues. It would also make it much likelier that the public would vote for tax increases or a bond.