Why I’m voting against Park City’s new sales taxes for transportation (Proposition #9 and #10)
Two weeks ago I was interviewed by the Park Record on my opposition to the proposed sales tax increase. What I learned is that it is difficult to summarize a 30 minute interview in a few paragraphs. So, while I think they did a fine job, I wanted to provide more context…
There are three primary reasons I am against the sales tax:
- Money from the sales tax will likely help the county buy the parcel of land between Jeremy Ranch Elementary School and the Burt Brothers (it’s called the Cline Dahle parcel). One of the proposed uses for this parcel is a park and ride. If this area becomes a park and ride, it will increase traffic along Rasmussen Road and decrease children’s safety. There are few obvious ways to improve traffic flow or redirect traffic around this area. My fear is that this sales tax will enable the county to make a grave mistake around Jeremy Ranch Elementary. At best it will make dropping kids off at Jeremy Ranch a nightmare and at worst endanger our kids. I’m not willing to bet my children’s safety on the hope that they’ll get this one right — especially when they haven’t in the past.
- I question whether buses are an actual solution to transportation issues. I don’t believe Summit County residents will adopt buses in large scale. The old adage is that everyone loves buses because they hope someone else will ride them. I believe that is especially true for us because most people stop at multiple places when they drive their car. We drop our kids at school. We exercise. We go to work. We stop at the grocery on the way home. It just doesn’t lend itself to busing. Even with more frequent runs, I don’t see people riding buses.
- A solution to traffic based on busing is very complicated and likely won’t work. The argument for adding additional funding to buses is as follows: people don’t ride buses because it takes too long to get anywhere. So, we need to add more frequent stops. Therefore, we increase taxes to pay for more buses. However, people won’t ride buses if they are stuck in the same traffic as cars. So, we need to add bus lanes to let the buses “speed” on by the cars. So, we increase taxes to pay for additional bus lanes. However, the roads those bus lanes travel over are managed by UDOT, and not ourselves. So, we have to convince UDOT to add bus lanes. However, UDOT’s concern really isn’t 224 or 248 as they have bigger fish to fry like to I-15 and I-80. So, we need to show them that we have skin in the game to show them we care. So, we raise taxes. However, UDOT is the most powerful entity in the state. Their budget is over a billion dollars a year. Our $8 million allotted for this (if taxes are raised) is like a gnat. But, we hope they decide to work with us on projects. So, we increase our taxes. Then, if UDOT decides they will do something, we need to work with them to ensure that what they will actually do is what we want them to do. Then, given all that, we hope it works.
Believe me, I understand Park City and Summit County’s pain. I believe Summit County Council Chairman Roger Armstrong when he says that people corner him and demand an answer to what he is doing to fix transportation. The problem is that:
THERE IS NO SHORT-TERM FIX TO TRANSPORTATION PROBLEMS.
The long-term fix is designing our neighborhoods around transportation. The long term fix is self driving vehicles that have 3 feet between them as they cruise on 224. The long term fix is planning Park City and the Snyderville Basin for the year 2030 (and beyond) based on what our community will look like in 13 years (do we still have snow below 9000 feet?).
The mistake is doing something for something’s sake. The mistake is wasting money when it could be used later … AND BETTER.
If YOU specifically will commit to riding the bus to ski, to work, and to dinner then it probably makes sense for you to vote for Propositions 9 and 10 on the ballot on Tuesday. But if you can’t, do you really think others will commit to it in significant numbers? No.
That’s my fear.
If Proposition 9 and 10 do nothing for me, wouldn’t I be better off donating that money during Live PC Give PC so that the Park City Band could have more instruments? Yes.
If Proposition 9 and 10 do very little for our community, couldn’t we have spent the money in many better ways? Yes.
If there are side-effects like endangering kids and making traffic worse around Jeremy Ranch Elementary school, shouldn’t we think twice before we enable that? Yes.
That’s why I’ll be voting NO on Tuesday.
I see this as a bit of a Pascal’s Wager situation. The risk is very low (money is plentiful in Summit County) and the potential benefit, even if it’s just knowledge gained, is significant.
Being risk averse has a place. But in terms of expected utility, I’d say both ballot initiatives are worthwhile. If nobody rides the bus, we lost a little bit of money. BFD. That’s how you learn how to do stuff. If lots of people ride the bus, it’s a HUGE win for not much money.
You have to know when to roll ’em.
I agree that this doesn’t seem like a huge amount of money right now. However, I still worry that it enables the Cline Dahle purchase, which I don’t think is good for Jeremy Ranch Elementary school area. I would like to have faith that collectively our community wouldn’t allow something bad to be built there, but I think allowing the Whole Foods to be built where it was, even with the traffic impacts, shows that faith isn’t warranted.
Also, the question is what is constructed with this money that can’t be taken back. So, if the buses don’t take off, what are we stuck with?
I also think back to a few short years ago where the county didn’t even have the money to keep up on road maintenance. It’s still a little too soon for me take a flyer that I don’t have much faith in.
I may be proven wrong and I hope I am. I hope everyone decides to ride the bus. That’ll make the roads wide open for me 🙂
I suppose my point is that the risk here is minimal. If we spend some money and learn that people don’t want to ride the bus, that’s money well spent in my book, because then we can look at other solutions. Knowledge is power, and you don’t get it without being willing to accept (sometimes lots of) failures.
The whole Jeremy interchange is going to be a massive disaster soon anyway with all the existing developments at the Quarry and next year at Weilenman. And Udot is supposedly building that huge double roundabout thing next year as well. It would be good to have some funds available to help shape that project/respond quickly to needs.
That’s an interesting way of viewing this. I’m not sure the powers that be are looking at these propositions as a test though. If they were positioned that way from the start, I probably would have been more receptive to the propositions.
That said, if it passes, I hope you are right and they treat it that way.
As for the Jeremy Interchange, I agree it will be a mess once UDOT builds the roundabout to rule all roundabouts… but imagine 500 more cars going past Jeremy Ranch Elementary every morning to go to a Park and Ride. That makes the potential mess a total disaster.
Remember when Jeremy Ranch wasn’t even considered to be a part of Park City? Now we are the dumping ground of Summit County boondoggles. We need a Donald Trump of Summit County.
Wow, look, the expanded transportation system is not FOR you. It’s for all the seasonal workers who come to Main St. at 3:30 to wait tables and can’t find parking spots because China Bridge is full of tourists’ rental cars. It’s for the J1s that live 21 to a house in pinebrook and don’t even HAVE cars. It’s for all the service employees who support the tourism-based economy that we, all PC residents, benefit from – many of whom commute from the junction or even SLC, overloading Old Town parking. Also, some savvier tourists may plan to stay in town and take the bus to the resort, if it’s not their first rodeo. No one expects you to take the bus while you’re dropping off your dry cleaning and going to Starbucks.
Maybe you’re right that this proposition is all about seasonal employees, workers on Main Streets, and savvy tourists. However, if you look at the Voter Information pamphlet produced by the city and county, a lot of it is about getting your full-time Snyderville Basin Resident to use the bus. Of course do remember that may article was abut why I am voting no. You are welcome to your opinion.
Please do remember though that the City tried to provide a bus service for folks who work on Main Street in winter 2015. The Park Record had this to say:
“Park City Transit is trying to help solve that problem by offering bus services that leave from Main Street transit center through 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Additionally, Alison Butz of the Historic Park City Alliance, said a free shuttle service is running every 10 minutes through the winter to help get workers to and from Main Street. On Fridays and Saturdays from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., workers can park at Treasure Mountain Junior High on Kearns Boulevard and take a shuttle to Main Street. For the ride back to the school, they can catch the bus, which stops nearby. However, there’s one problem: Main Street employees aren’t yet using the service, despite the fact Butz has delivered fliers to most of the businesses in the area. ‘Three weeks in operation and there are zero people using it,’ Butz said.”
So, maybe this time will be different. Maybe, additional service will be embraced. Frankly, if voters pass the propositions, I hope it succeeds. Otherwise, its a huge waste.
Either way, though, I don’t want a huge park and ride that causes hundreds of extra cars to go by Jeremy Ranch Elementary every day.
I am grateful that Prop 9 passed. I live in Pinebrook and take the 902 Park City Connect express bus to SLC three days a week, which picks up at the JR Park and Ride. Prop 9 will add two additional routes in each direction, which is a game-changer for this service. In addition, my wife and I regularly take advantage of the route 7-Pink bus. We take the bus to attend concerts, Sundance, have a drink in old town, ski (every weekend in the winter), etc. Prop 9 will add a more direct route to Main St.
I hope to see more commuters embrace public transport. It’s not always a convenient alternative, in some cases it’s much more convenient–either way, it is one less car on our roads and in the parking lot. Riding the bus is hip!
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