Park City, Summit County to split on providing transit services
Summit County and Park City are soon to be going their separate ways — when it comes to transit, at least.
The county formally announced a deadline to split off county-specific bus lines from Park City Transit next June. It will hire a contractor to operate those routes, an investment in its own transit district that officials hope will grow to eventually include regional partners like Wasatch County and East Side municipalities.
The goal is that the changes will mostly be behind the scenes and that riders will enjoy a smooth transition of services, said Caroline Rodriguez, the county’s regional transportation planning director.
“It could change significantly — we just don’t know. We won’t know until we look at the demands and market analysis,” she said. “I think residents can expect the same or more transit service than they’re getting now.”
The county has announced the first step of the process to strike out on its own, including a $75,000 contract with consultant Via Transportation Inc. for the first stage of planning the overhaul and then a planned $3 million deal to start operations beginning June 30.
In a staff report accompanying an update to the County Council earlier this month, Rodriguez wrote that Via is the only locally established firm that has the capability to deliver the scope of services the county needs. Via has contracted with the Utah Transit Authority.
Via will study the county’s transit needs, operate the bus routes — including paying bus drivers and providing buses — and is planned to develop and launch a transit app.
And, Rodriguez told the council, they’re pretty excited to get started.
“Transit agencies don’t start from the ground up very frequently,” she said.
The county didn’t solicit bids for the contract, unusual for one of this size. In the staff report, Rodriguez explained that was justified because of Via’s unique capacity or capability, inadequate competition and unusual or compelling urgency.
The changeover is timed to coincide with the end of Park City’s fiscal year and to align with federal transit dispersals.
The $3 million operating costs represents a fraction of what the county pays Park City Transit for service, an item budgeted at $8.5 million in 2019. PC Transit had operating costs around $15 million, with capital costs exceeding that. Park City budget officials estimated the county chips in around 40% of the Park City Transit’s costs.
County Manager Tom Fisher said this arrangement offers the potential for meaningful cost savings, though he said it remains an option for the county to operate the system itself in the future.
The condensed timeline made it impossible for county staff to undertake such an ambitious project, Rodriguez said. She added she was looking forward to the working with the transit firm.
Rodriguez told the council of some creative ways a new transit system could be employed, like linking it to newly installed counters on popular trails to direct people to less crowded areas. A user could arrive from the Salt Lake Valley with their bike, park at a park-and-ride and have a vehicle waiting to take them to a trailhead, she suggested. The same could be true for skiers in the winter.
“What we could do is really exciting,” she said.
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