Parking problems in Park City become Sundance horror scene
Police Department logs more than 140 cases over the fest’s opening days
January 24, 2017
Drivers overwhelmed Old Town during the opening weekend of the Sundance Film Festival, creating gridlock conditions at some points and causing numerous parking issues in the neighborhood.
Traffic crawled on streets close to Main Street like Park Avenue, and there was trouble on the roads elsewhere as drivers sought a way around the traffic. It is difficult to quantify the traffic issues beyond anecdotal stories about driving times extending well beyond a normal day.
But the parking issues, which are related to the traffic problems, were logged individually by the Park City Police Department. The police reports covering the first days of Sundance showed the complaints about parking quickly mounted. Some of the problems were related to preparations for the Women's March on Main on Saturday, but many others appeared to be unrelated to the demonstration.
Police Department logs indicated there were more than 140 cases about parking between midday on Thursday, the opening day of Sundance, and Sunday. There have long been complaints about people parking vehicles in restricted areas or in places where they block traffic or driveways. The issues during the opening weekend, though, seemed to be especially pronounced.
Darwin Little, a Police Department lieutenant, said some of the cases were a result of the preparation for the march. He said the police needed to order vehicles towed out of the flagpole lot on lower Swede Alley to clear the space for a rally at the end of the march. He said there were also vehicles towed from the parking lot on the north side of the Marsac Building to make space for law enforcement staging during the march. He said approximately 12 vehicles were towed between the two locations.
He said the other parking issues over the opening weekend of Sundance involved a variety of circumstances. Parking along Main Street and nearby spaces are heavily restricted during the festival, leading to many of the problems. Little said the police saw numerous drivers disregard the rules of the drop-and-load zone along Main Street that allows someone to briefly stop.
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"A lot of cars are using that as a staging area," Little said, describing that they would stop and wait in a location where the practice is prohibited.
He said there were also issues on streets outside Sundance's Main Box Office, in a building at the intersection of Swede Alley and Heber Avenue. He said parked vehicles outside the building caused traffic problems.
"It creates a pretty serious backup, traffic jam," Little said.
The issues spread into neighborhoods as well. One of the problematic locations, on the edge of the Main Street core, is where Main Street, Daly Avenue, Hillside Avenue and Park Avenue converge. He said taxis and shuttles attempted to stage at the convergence of the roads, creating difficulties for residential traffic, buses and the Main Street trolley.
Little estimated 80 percent of the parking issues resulted in warnings while the other 20 percent were ticketed. He said approximately six vehicles were towed in addition to those towed as part of the preparations for the march.
Little anticipates more parking issues as the film festival continues. The heavy snows will complicate the situation this week, he predicted, explaining that snowplow crews sometimes inadvertently knock over parking barricades as they are clearing the roads.
Andy Beerman, a Park City Councilor who lives in Old Town, said the large Sundance crowds coupled with the snow led to the parking issues. He also noted the number of taxis and shuttles circulating in Old Town as they sought customers.
"The lack of parking generates traffic and vice versa," Beerman said, also explaining that Sundance has been a success and the snowfall is good for skiers.
Park City officials have long attempted to nudge people toward buses during Sundance since parking is so difficult. There are heavy parking restrictions on Main Street and Swede Alley, and City Hall charges premium prices for some public parking locations that remain open during the festival.