Park City reverses plan to spend $680K for microtransit deal
Mayor Jack Thomas requests the contract be taken off Thursday's agenda
September 19, 2017
Park City on Tuesday night abruptly removed a controversial contract from the agenda of a City Council meeting on Thursday that would have provided free rides covering short distances, indicating that City Hall will not pursue such a service this year.
Officials distributed an email at approximately 9:30 p.m. saying Mayor Jack Thomas requested the contract be taken off the agenda. The email also explained that Diane Foster, the Park City manager, does not intend to pursue a service, known as microtransit, in 2017.
Park City staffers recommended a Florida firm receive a controversial contract to provide free rides covering short distances, the second time since the summer City Hall has formally supported a deal with Downtowner, App, Inc.
The Park City Council on Thursday was scheduled to consider a $680,431 contract. A selection committee consisting of City Hall and County Courthouse staffers unanimously supported an agreement with Downtowner App, Inc. over bids submitted by four other companies. The service is known as microtransit. It would have used Chevrolet Bolt vehicles that are powered by electricity, something that would have advanced City Hall's environmental efforts.
The deal would have covered six months and was seen as a pilot program. The service would have operated on an app-based system. Someone would have ordered a ride on the app and been taken for free from a bus stop or to a stop. Rides must begin and end within the same service area. Officials divided Park City and a small portion of the Snyderville Basin into a series of service areas. City Hall sees the free rides as extensions of the fare-free bus system that has long operated in Park City and the Snyderville Basin.
"We're really excited about the project. We're looking forward to seeing it approved," Travis Gleason, one of the founders of Downtowner App, Inc., said on Tuesday prior to the contract being removed from Thursday’s agenda.
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Gleason said Tuesday he had planned to attend the City Council meeting and intended to speak in more detail about the service after the vote.
Park City officials envision a microtransit system as a service that could cut traffic by providing a free ride service once someone is at a bus stop. It is part of City Hall's broad traffic-fighting measures. The service would have run during the ski season.
The price tag soared from the discussions in the summer about a service. The City Council at that time rejected a $358,727 contract with Downtowner App, Inc., requested changes to the details of a service and ordered another bidding process. In a report issued Monday, City Hall staffers attributed the increased cost to the wider area of service than the earlier proposal and a start date during the busy ski season, which will require more vehicles and staffers.
There has been widespread concern in the Park City-area transportation industry about the prospects of City Hall hiring a firm to offer free rides. The transportation companies have argued the service could cut into business, saying short rides like those provided by a microtransit service are important to their numbers. Some of the changes to the service between the two bidding processes were meant to assuage concerns.
One of the other firms that submitted a proposal planned to attend the meeting on Thursday. Sam Rubin, who owns Mountain Transportation Network, said earlier in the week he hoped the City Council would be open to the other alternatives. He was disappointed with the recommendation that the deal go to Downtowner App, Inc. Rubin, as an example, said his firm's proposal better interacted with the app for the City Hall bus service.
"Our solution was $400,000 cheaper. It covers the city a lot better. It provides a better solution," Rubin said.
The City Council meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Marsac Building.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Wednesday morning to reflect Park City Council’s decision to remove the microtransit vote from the agenda.