Gus, the bus may go to Salt Lake
Next stop, downtown Salt Lake City.
That might be what a bus driver in Park City will say one day if there is enough interest in such a route and various government bodies reach an accord for the service.
The Park City government recently sent out a survey to Parkites asking whether they are interested in a public-transit option from Park City to Salt Lake. There is not currently a way to get between the two cities on public transportation, leaving people without cars relying on private-sector shuttles, friends or relatives.
But officials say that several agreements will be needed before such a service is introduced, including negotiating a way to fund the bus route. It seems that the governments in Park City and Summit County and, possibly, in Salt Lake City would need to agree to the service. The Utah Transit Authority would also be involved.
Kent Cashel, the deputy Public Works director for Park City, reported on Tuesday that several hundred of the non-scientific surveys had been returned and he expects more to be submitted. Cashel expects that the data will be compiled by late-January and analyzed by a month later.
Cashel said his "gut feeling" is that there is enough demand to warrant the service.
"Just look at the amount of traffic on Interstate 80," he said, referring to commuters traveling between Park City and Salt Lake City.
The survey asks people about their work or school hours, how they travel to and from Salt Lake, such as in a carpool or by themselves, how much the commute costs and whether they would ride a bus.
The officials involved caution that the survey is a preliminary step in determining whether a route is viable. Cashel said the earliest that a route could be offered is 2007 and said it could cost $250,000 per year to provide one bus for the route.
One issue with the potential route involves government jurisdictions. The Utah Transit Authority, known commonly as UTA, does not have the go-ahead from state leaders to serve Summit County, meaning that the rules would have to be changed to allow the service, according to officials with UTA.
"I think there’s a lot of hoops to jump through," said Dave Huber, the general manager of UTA’s Salt Lake region.
Huber said there is not enough data to predict if a Park City-Salt Lake route would be successful. He speculates that the route would perhaps be offered only on weekdays, would have one or two stops in the Park City area and connect with an intermodal hub at 2nd South and 600 West in Salt Lake City, nearby the Gateway shopping mall.
Both UTA and Cashel said riders would be charged a fare but they are unsure of an approximate amount. They said the fare would likely be set at an amount similar to the price it costs to drive between Park City and Salt Lake. The Park City bus system is free but UTA charges its riders.
Steve Lewis, who owns the transportation company Lewis Bros. Stages, is not worried about the potential of competition unless Park City and UTA devise a bus route between Park City and Salt Lake International. He said the Lewis Bros. market does not rely on commuters, who City Hall and UTA would try to attract.
"It wouldn’t have a lot of direct effect on us," Lewis said, but noting that an airport-Park City route would be of "very grave concern."
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Park City officials are expected to present information about upcoming work on the Treasure acreage designed to guard against a wildfire, as well as a series of other City Hall projects and programs, at an open house that is scheduled next week.