Park City talks of fighting traffic by constructing gondolas across community
Park City leaders on Tuesday held a brief but potentially significant discussion about the possibilities of creating an aerial transit system in the community, perhaps through a network of gondolas, lifts or other people movers, as they continue to devise alternatives in an effort to answer the long-running concern about traffic.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council were not scheduled to make decisions, but they indicated they want to hold more discussions later. It seems that future talks about aerial connections could look broadly at the key destinations in Park City, such as the mountain resorts, Main Street, a planned arts and culture district along the Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive corridors and transportation infrastructure.
The elected officials generally discussed overarching ideals but did not delve into details. Any upcoming talks about an aerial transit system as ambitious as the one that was discussed in broad terms will almost certainly draw intense interest from the resort industry, Main Street businesses, other commercial hubs and rank-and-file Parkites. The various interest groups would likely press for details like route maps, costs and information about the traffic-reducing projections of an aerial system.
There were few members of the public in the City Council chambers for the discussion and rank-and-file Parkites will likely learn of the talks in coming weeks. There could eventually be concerns about the proximity of any routes to neighborhoods, the noise and the visuals of an aerial network.
City Councilor Lynn Ware Peek during the meeting mentioned hearing of aerial connections that are widely used in South America, including the Colombian city of Medellin.
“A whole network of gondolas that literally changed their entire society, because, well, their culture’s very different from ours. It enabled people to come from up on the mountains in the barrios and come down for work,” Ware Peek said about the system in Colombia.
Ware Peek also mentioned the popularity of a gondola in the mountain resort of Telluride, Colorado. The gondola in that community connects the downtown of Telluride with Mountain Village, high on the slopes. The gondola in Telluride dates to the 1990s and has long been seen as a potential model for other transportation systems. She said she would like Park City “to go toward those bold solutions.”
“We have something like 60 or 65 lifts, chairlifts, in this town, slash gondolas, slash other ways of moving people through the air. And so I just think it’s part of our culture,” Ware Peek said.
Tim Henney, another member of the City Council, agreed with Ware Peek, describing the importance of aerial connections in Park City’s past as a silver-mining community. There are remnants of the mining-era aerial connections in several places, including along the route of the Town Lift.
“We also have a history, not just a culture, but a history. You look at the mountain and all those trams were for moving people and ore up and down the mountain. So, we’ve got 150 years of history of moving people through the air, if you look at all of our mining infrastructure and some of the legacy equipment that’s around,” Henney said.
The mayor also appeared supportive of additional talks. He said Parkites want creative solutions and highlighted the timing, saying Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort hold plans to redevelop their base areas. He noted City Hall intends to build a transit hub as part of the arts and culture district.
“Those conversations have begun in terms of talking about does it make sense to do aerial transit connecting our commercial cores and going out of, out of, Bonanza,” Beerman said.
He indicated preliminary work on concepts could be conducted in the next three to six months. The preliminary work could include cost comparisons and aerial alignments. Beerman said City Hall needs to start its planning to ensure the municipal government’s timeline takes into account the redevelopment of the mountain resort base areas. He mentioned the possibility of City Hall securing federal funding for an aerial transit network.
Alfred Knotts, the transportation manager at City Hall, said additional discussions about concepts could be held during the municipal budget talks in the spring.
The discussions about an aerial transit system would unfold amid widespread concern in the community about traffic and as Park City leaders continue to press alternatives to personal vehicles through the expansion of the bus system, bicyclist-pedestrian route upgrades and trail connections.
Any detailed City Hall discussions about aerial connections would likely eventually involve the mountain resorts, the County Courthouse, Main Street and state transportation officials, among others.
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Each of the Park City area’s state legislators have a lot more than just ski resorts and restaurants on their mind – try roads, natural gas and a state university as well.