Park City considers reinstating controversial Main Street drop-and-load zones
City Hall is considering reinstating a controversial program along Main Street involving permit-only drop-and-load zones, something that debuted early last winter to a mixed reception before it was suspended in March amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The drop-and-load program is designed to reduce congestion in the Main Street core and improve safety there. Officials created a series of drop-and-load zones along Main Street as a pilot program. The zones were available in the evening hours to vehicles with the proper permit. The permits cost $200 each at that time, but a figure for a reinstated program is not known. Taxis, shuttles and ridesharing firms were the primary users of the zones.
The permits allowed holders to briefly stop in one of the zones to drop people off or pick them up. The supporters saw the zones as being more convenient and safer than dropping people off or picking them up if space was available on the curb or in the street if there was not space on the curb.
There were numerous violations, though, as vehicles without the proper permit were left in the drop-and-load zones. The enforcement was highly visible on the shopping, dining and entertainment strip, and in some cases cars were towed from drop-and-load zones in full view of the Main Street crowds. The Park City Police Department logged a string of cases last winter involving issues in the drop-and-load zones.
At one point early in the year, a driver with Uber who held one of the permits to use a drop-and-load zone compared the scene on Main Street to what transpires in a “Die Hard” movie. There was concern that the drop-and-load zones coupled with the highly visible enforcement impacted the Main Street experience. City Hall eventually tweaked the program by consolidating the zones into two large ones shortly before the suspension.
In a communication to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council early in the week, City Hall staffers said they have “coordinated with stakeholders about reinstating the (drop-and-load) program to help Old Town handle a predicted increase in winter traffic.” The communication said stakeholder input had been supportive of a return of the program.
Jenny Diersen, the economic development program manager at City Hall and one of the staffers involved in the drop-and-load zone talks, said in an interview this week officials considered the program a success, asserting the zones reduced traffic and eased circulation in the Main Street core. She described the drop-and-load program as one aspect of City Hall’s broader efforts to address traffic, transit and parking. The program also offered drop-and-load zones available to anyone regardless of whether they held a permit. Those zones were located on Swede Alley, in the Brew Pub parking lot and the trolley turnaround at the northern end of Main Street.
Diersen said City Hall is considering reinstating the drop-and-load zones in the middle of November, toward the traditional start of the ski season at Park City Mountain Resort. She said it is anticipated the permits from last winter would need to be renewed and new permits would be available to those that did not hold one then. The talks are part of the municipal government’s broader preparations for the ski season.
The Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents the interests of businesses in the Main Street core, plans to discuss the program with City Hall shortly, the leader of the group said. Alison Kuhlow, who is the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, said successes of the program included a better flow of traffic on Main Street and easier access to restaurants for diners who were driven there. She said Main Street wants City Hall to consider allowing curbside restaurant pickup in the drop-and-load zones.
Any upcoming discussions about drop-and-load zones would be held amid uncertainty about the ski season, which will be the first full season influenced by the spread of the coronavirus. Many are expecting a sharp drop in business in the winter as worries continue about the economy and travel.
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