Many want bus through Parleys Canyon | ParkRecord.com

Many want bus through Parleys Canyon

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Many Summit County residents would like to see bus service between Salt Lake City and Park City, and the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow survey could measure the support in the community for public transportation through Parleys Canyon.

The survey is an important step toward updating the master plan for City Creek, Emigration, Red Butte, Parleys, Millcreek, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood canyons. The master plan provides the basis for land-use policies in Salt Lake County.

"This is the future of our natural resource, whether it’s drinking water or recreation or transportation. It plays into so many parts of keeping the citizens of the state happy," said Nathan Rafferty, president and chief executive officer of Ski Utah.

The survey, organized by Envision Utah, is available at http://www.wasatchcanyons.slco.org.

"We think it’s important that Summit County is included in the transportation portion of this project," Rafferty said.

Filling out the survey could be the best opportunity ever for people in Summit County to express their opinions about whether a bus should run through Parleys Canyon.

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"People are telling Envision Utah that they want to see better public transportation, or any public transportation between Salt Lake and Park City," said Rafferty, who is a Park City resident.

Similar surveys by Envision Utah have shown that many Utahns support public transportation in Parleys Canyon.

"It may have been one of the highest vote getters," Rafferty said. "It makes a whole lot of sense. All you have to do is drive out of town at 5 o’clock on any weekday and you’ll see cars stacked up from Kimball Junction back to The Canyons."

Thursday is Earth Day, which was created to raise awareness about environmental issues. And transportation is an area where environmentalists and the ski industry often agree.

"We work with the environmental groups a lot and sometimes we’re on different sides of the table. But when it comes down to the transportation aspect, I think we are closer than we are on any other subject," Rafferty said. "Everybody can agree that less cars is better for the environment."

There is not a public bus that runs between Park City and Salt Lake City. City Hall, Summit County and the Utah Transit Authority, however, have negotiated an agreement that calls for the three sides to cooperate as they design a route.

"The first, most important step is being able to develop what we believe is a viable business plan, and we’re getting close to being able to roll that out," said Kent Cashel, transit and transportation manager for Park City. "We’ve done a lot of work to forecast who would ride the system and it’s real broad-based. There would be recreational users who would use it. There would be students who would use it. There would be employees who would use it and those employees could live in any of the areas. The numbers are pretty impressive."

Startup costs for the new bus system could reach about $3.6 million. Operating costs could climb to between $2.2 million and $3 million in the first year.

"It is definitely a live topic that will be coming back for further discussion," Cashel said in a telephone interview.

Public buses in the Park City area are free. But passengers would likely pay to ride between Park City and Salt Lake City.

"Right now, I don’t have a fare. But we are working on that piece," Cashel said. "When you start operating over a long distance, involving multiple legal entities, multiple funding structures and differing priorities, it just takes a while to work through these things."

Meanwhile, those who take the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow survey are also being asked about development, water quality, watershed protection and the management of natural resources.

"If you don’t start thinking about some of these big issues now, you’re behind the eight ball when all of the sudden you wake up one morning and there is so much traffic that it really affects your quality of life," Rafferty said. "People need and want to recreate in the mountains. And they’re not going to want to do it if it’s such a hassle to get to the ski areas that it impacts their experience so much that they just would rather go bowling, nothing against bowling."