Traffic jams can cause snarls for Park City employers
In Park City these days, it’s a reality everyone deals with: In the busy winter season, traffic will often be bad. And when big snowstorms hit, the situation can quickly devolve into a nightmare.
The gridlock has the potential to cause problems for businesses, many of which rely on employees who commute in from out of town. Employees stuck in a traffic jam instead of manning the phones at a ski resort or bussing tables at a restaurant can be a minor annoyance at best and a major snarl at worst.
Rick Anderson, owner of the Eating Establishment on Main Street, acknowledged that gridlock, like the traffic jams seen during the major snowstorms in recent weeks, often make employees late to work. But for him, it all depends on which employees are stuck in traffic.
"If they’re a key employee, even a half-hour causes big problems," he said. "But most of my key employees have been here for a long time, and they’re aware of what they need to do when we have storms or the traffic is going to be bad. They leave the house early and usually are able to get here in time. But if they are late, it can be a big problem."
But an even bigger issue for Anderson is when the snow and traffic keep customers away. He said the recent storms hurt his business by about 20 percent.
"That’s a big deal — 20 percent off is 20 percent off," he said. "How would you feel if 20 percent of your check was taken away? It’s not good."
Backed up traffic can also throw a wrench into the works For Mike Ryan, who owns the Main Street furniture store Elegante. He said he has employees from Kamas, Heber and Salt Lake City, and it’s not rare during the winter for them to be late to work.
Ryan takes a somewhat serene approach to the problem and said it’s just "something you have to deal with" as a business owner in Park City. And when snow complicates the traffic situation, he sometimes simply chalks the entire day up as a loss. He said hurrying to open the store isn’t worth making employees drive on roads that might be dangerous.
"We try to make sure that the employees understand that if the weather is just terrible, don’t bother," he said. "I live locally and I have four-wheel drive and I can get here. But if we have to be closed one day, that’s not going to be the end of the world. We don’t even want to think about making employees unsafe just to get to work."
As the two largest employers in the area, the ski resorts certainly aren’t immune to the traffic concerns. Coleen Reardon, director of marketing for Deer Valley Resort, said the resort sometimes staggers shifts for employees to ensure their commutes are as painless as possible and make the roads a little less congested.
"We’ve got to cover the phones and be able to take care of business, but if we can adjust to have some of us coming in from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and others from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., that can really help," she said. "We’re really cognizant of it and trying to be less impactful with our staff. But the holiday seasons are so tough, the Christmas week and the President’s Day weekend."
Reardon added that on-mountain staff typically arrives early each day, meaning the resort’s operations are never affected by the traffic. Jenna Prescott, senior director of base area operations and resort village management for Park City Mountain Resort, said the situation at PCMR is similar.
In an email response, Prescott added that when traffic is expected to be heavy, PCMR has employees park their cars in lots on the edges of the city and county and busses them into the resort’s base areas.
Deer Valley also provides transportation for employees, Reardon said. The resort busses and shuttles in those who live in the Heber Valley and Salt Lake Valley, ensuring more employees arrive on time and eliminating several cars from the roads. It helps to clear up traffic for everyone else.
"It helps a ton, I think," Reardon said. "If you have two busses full of 50-something people, there’s that many less cars on the road."
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Backcountry opened its first retail store Tuesday in Kimball Junction, directly below the company’s headquarters.