Guest editorial: Resident makes impassioned plea for fewer cars
September 27, 2016
Kudos to our municipal leadership for hosting the Plans & Projects Open House on Tuesday. Such events are productive forums for community dialogue, and it's great to see so many noble efforts underway.
The side-by-side display of current projects, however, spotlighted a striking contradiction. Several projects address the question, "How to we fit more cars into Old Town?" For example, Main Street needs more parking for shoppers, special events demand additional parking for guests, and a planned high-density housing project needs more parking for more residents. Quietly tucked in among the pro-parking efforts, however, was a project tackling a question fundamental to all others: "How do we mitigate traffic along our entry corridors?"
It's an ugly fact. In order to get to all these in-town parking spots, as well as the additional hundreds imminent with PCMR and Treasure build-outs, cars must travel 224/Park or 248/Kearns. These entry corridor roads are already burdened beyond capacity, rife with accidents, and clogged with idling cars. Why continue to pursue parking projects that exacerbate already severe traffic issues along these roads?
I believe two fallacious assumptions misguide our efforts: (1) Old Town is Park City, and (2) welcoming more people necessarily means tolerating more cars.
First, while Old Town is a much-loved and integral part of Park City, by all of us and for all of us, it is not all of Park City. Current traffic management initiatives to some degree shift Old Town problems onto the doorsteps of its neighbors. For example, accommodating more cars in Old Town absolutely equates to more traffic, accidents, and pollution along entry corridors and the neighborhoods through which they pass. These neighborhoods are home to the vast majority of our town's full-time residents, families, and schools. Certainly, they merit protection, too.
Second, we've built a hospitality-driven economy and rightfully want to accommodate more visitors. That said, one point is key: Accommodating more visitors does not necessarily mean accommodating their cars. For planners, the trick is to fortify a traffic perimeter, a sieve that allows people- and bike-sized things easily through but halts cars before they further clog entry-corridor jams. European resorts have been doing this for decades, and it's time to shift the paradigm here, too.
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In local terms, this means a focus on public transit rather than in-town parking. It means building a transit hub, rather than a corridor-clogging parking garage, on our newly acquired Bonanza lot. It means rewarding employers and workers who utilize off-site shuttle parking. It means subsidizing affordable housing for beneficiaries who commit to public transit, and it requires collaboration with county and state to cohesively develop that system.
The nearest main roadways that can accommodate local demand are I-80 and US-40. Our traffic perimeter starts there, at Kimball and Quinn's, where incidentally, we have a derelict parking lot with Rail Trail access but no bus service. For drivers, the social-psychology is simple, albeit a bit painful: Given sufficient information, incentive (e.g., easy/fast/free transit), and disincentive (e.g., scarce/expensive in-town parking), behavior will change.
Our family lives in Thaynes Canyon, fifty yards or so from the S.R.224/Park Avenue intersection, and we love the convenience of the free bus route nearby. However, more and more often the noise and exhaust of traffic-jammed, idling cars forces us to close our home's windows. When residents can't breathe fresh air, and kids can't safely cross our roads, Park City is no longer Park City.
Let's champion superlative public transit over supplemental in-town parking:
Welcome people. Thwart cars.