Dance lessons from film festival ’06
Parkites will return to their normal lives next week for better or worse, depending on one’s personal view of the commotion that accompanies the town’s annual film festival week.
Overall, the feedback about this year’s event has been good. Even though the Sundance Film Festival has grown, and attracts a bigger entourage of media and industry attention each year, the founders’ mission seems to be intact, evidenced by the quality and diversity of the films.
Local merchants, too, seem to be better attuned to the needs of this group of visitors and are doing well financially. Some benefit from the festival’s commercial sideshow by leasing their space temporarily to out-of-town sponsors or vendors. Others have adapted by adjusting their hours and services to cater to the needs of this particular crowd.
Nevertheless there is always room for improvement most notably in the transportation and parking plans.
First of all, it is important to note the Sundance Film Festival is not solely responsible for the congestion that occurs during this part of January. A constellation of smaller film festivals, concerts, and promotional events all contribute to the inevitable traffic jams that have been known to stretch from Deer Valley to Kimball Junction. To its credit, Sundance already shoulders a sizable share of the burden for mitigating traffic impacts by helping to augment the city transit system and providing hundreds of volunteers to patrol parking areas.
The bus system gets better every year, providing a frequent, full coverage system that would be welcome year round if it were not so expensive to maintain. But parking during the film festival is a disaster. This year parking was even more of an issue than in previous years due to the loss of spaces in the still-under-construction Swede Alley parking garage and the portable classrooms already crowding the parking lot at the Eccles Center, the festival’s largest venue.
The lack of parking reached a critical mass this year and even touched off talks about establishing out-of-town satellite parking lots like those used during the 2002 Olympic Games in Park City. During that event, two large lots were created, one on U.S. 40 near Quinn’s Junction, and one alongside S.R. 224 near the base of the Utah Olympic Park to get people out of their cars and onto buses before entering the city limits.
Those discussions definitely have merit. This year, some shuttle parking was generously provided by Deer Valley Resort, but using the ski area’s two back lots created other problems. For one, Deer Valley can’t really spare that many spaces during its own high season. For another, asking visitors to drive right through the heart of the city in order to park adds to the traffic snarls around the downtown roundabout, on the Belt Route, on Park Avenue and on Kearns Boulevard. A far better solution would be to corral those vehicles before they come into the city.
Various city officials this week have acknowledged they are thinking about reviving the satellite parking lot concept. The Record seconds that idea. In particular, with several development proposals currently under construction or consideration at Quinn’s Junction, a graded area that could be used as a grass covered dog park or playing field when not needed for special-events parking could be an important film festival amenity.
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