Main Street employees struggle with parking changes
Stepping onto Park City’s new employee bus, everything seems to be running smoothly. The approximately six-minute one-way ride is direct, the bus is clean and there are many open seats. But the reactions of those riding the bus were not entirely positive.
While some, like Anthony Del Vecchio, said the shuttle is fantastic, Sara Williams, who also works on Main Street, said it is ineffective.
The new Homestake employee parking lot, located in Bonanza Park, was put into use in December, when Park City launched its new parking plan in the Main Street area. There are higher parking rates on the street and the China Bridge garage, where many employees used to park because it was free, is now a paid lot from 5 p.m. to midnight. City officials say that the purpose of the change is to open more parking spots for visitors and reduce traffic congestion, and they have encouraged employees to park in the Bonanza Park lot and shuttle into the historic district.
Williams, who has been working on Main Street for four years, said that the system has not yet been effective in reducing traffic or making Main Street an appealing place for employees to work.
“I think it’s presumptuous to assume we have extra hours in a day to accommodate another form of transit,” she said.
She said that she feels like a second-class citizen who is being “shipped in on a bus” when she goes to work. Plus, she said that a lack of security and lights at the Homestake parking lot makes her feel uneasy walking to her car alone. For those who leave work carrying large sums of money, such as servers and bartenders, she said it is dangerous.
Kandi Goff, one of the managers at Flanagan’s On Main, said that she has been finding unmarked parking spots by Marsac Avenue because she does not feel safe using the new lot. Plus, she said she does not have the time.
“I’m not going to sit there and wait for a shuttle and go that far when I have that much money on me,” she said. “I am a walking money sign.”
Lynn Ware Peek, community engagement liaison for the city, said that lighting was installed in the lot and that riders can request for the bus driver to drop them right at their cars late at night in order to increase safety.
She said that the city did outreach throughout the fall to receive input and make changes to the parking program accordingly. Still, the city knew that there was going to be some pushback from employees and employers throughout the transition period.
Some people have used the tactic of breaking the parking gate arms at China Bridge to avoid paying all together, according to police reports. Goff said the vandalism has negatively affected workers who get stuck behind a line of cars trying to manually lift the warped gate arm or are directed around it.
Jose Molina, who has worked at Grappa Restaurant and Chimayo on Main Street for a combined 17 years, said he is leaving his job because of the new parking changes.
“I quit,” he said. “I put my two weeks in and I’m done.”
One of his major complaints is that the time spent walking to the bus stop, waiting for a bus, and then walking to his car and waiting for it to heat up is uncomfortable during the winter months and not efficient. He said that many of his coworkers are also considering leaving to find jobs outside of Main Street.
Ware Peek said that there are several alternative options to parking at the Homestake lot employees can choose, so she hopes that they consider them before deciding to quit.
“We also want to remain open,” she said. “We have shifted many aspects of this program based on feedback from employees, and we will continue to do so. We may have missed someone who has an exception that prevents them from being able to park in Homestake or to carpool, and we would like to hear from them.”
There are some, such as Del Vecchio, who appreciate the new system and the convenience of not having to search for a spot. His commute from Salt Lake City now has an extra 10 minutes tacked on, but he does not mind.
Plus, he said that he is excited to have a designated parking area during the Sundance Film Festival. Although the lot has been a popular parking spot for those visiting during Sundance in the past, the city decided recently that it will maintain it as an employee-only lot during the festival, Ware Peek said.
Ron Morrill, a handyman who works with multiple businesses on Main Street, said that most employees seem to be upset about the new system, but he is noticing a difference. He said that there are more spots available for visitors, and more visitors means more business.
“I think it’s working,” he said. “There have been some hiccups, but I think it’s easier for the customer.”
Hugo Gonzalez, a bartender at The Spur Bar and Grill, does worry that the increase in parking prices could hurt visitation in the end, though. Having to pay extra in order to park and eat out on Main Street could detract people from the area, he said. But, maybe that will reduce traffic in the end and have the desired effect.
During the winter months, he said the visitors are usually willing to pay, but Gonzalez is concerned about what will happen if the pay-to-park system is continued during the off months, which, Ware Peek said, has not yet been decided, but any rates will be nominal.
He, and the majority of his coworkers, are biting the bullet and paying the $3 hourly to park in China Bridge, but the cost adds up quick. Everyone is trying to find a way to build new habits and work with the changes.
“It’s hard for us,” he said. “For us, the employees, I don’t think it was a good idea.”
To learn more about the new parking plan and request a permit for the Homestake employee lot, visit parkcity.org/parking.
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