Park City weighs boosting bus service for Sundance, ski champs
Park City is considering hiring a firm to provide supplemental transit service during the Sundance Film Festival and the FIS World Championships in freestyle disciplines, two events this winter that are expected to stress the public transit system as well as private sector transportation firms.
City Hall recently posted a document requesting proposals from firms that are capable of providing the service. Officials are interested in providing rides between the Ecker Hill and Richardson Flat park-and-ride lots and an existing bus stop or transit center. The users would then board a bus to their destination.
The posting also mentions the possibility of a route between Park City and the Salt Lake City International Airport. Such a route would be believed to be the first-ever publicly financed link directly connecting Park City and the airport. The airport route would apply to the FIS World Championships but not Sundance.
The two events are scheduled consecutively in late January and early February with the final days of Sundance overlapping with the beginning of the FIS World Championships. City Hall has been planning for the overlap for months.
Sundance traditionally taxes the transportation system as some of the largest crowds of the year arrive for the 11-day event. Traffic is clogged, the buses are jammed and private-sector taxis and shuttles usually enjoy the best business of the year. It is unclear what sort of traffic the freestyle World Championships will generate, but the championships are billed as the largest winter-sports event in the state since the 2002 Winter Olympics. Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort will both host competitions.
City Hall wants to tap a firm for 2019 with the possibility of another two years. Officials anticipate a firm would operate up to 1,000 hours during the 2019 events.
Alfred Knotts, the transportation planning manager at City Hall, said officials are not yet sure whether they will proceed with a contract for the service. He described the posting as “really kind of contingency planning.”
He said it is unclear what sort of dollar figure would be attached to a contract and, until then, it is difficult to predict whether the service would be free to users or carry a fare.
Knotts said the effort is based on concerns the transit system might not have enough buses available during the events to provide the service between the park-and-ride lots and a bus stop or transit center where passengers could transfer to another bus.
He said one bus is not in service after an accident while other buses that are on order have not yet been delivered. He said City Hall has also approached the Utah Transit Authority about the possibility of moving extra buses to Park City during the two events.
Proposals are due Dec. 17. It is likely the Park City Council would act quickly afterward should officials choose to pursue a service since Sundance is scheduled to start five weeks after the due date. A City Council vote on a contract could be cast Jan. 3, according to the posting.
The posting requesting proposals has not been widely publicized. It seems almost certain the private-sector Park City-area transportation firms will closely watch the discussions about a contract. The transportation firms normally raise concerns when they envision a municipal service possibly competing against their own routes. The prospects of a City Hall contract involving some sort of airport service could especially draw the attention of the private sector firms. Knotts, though, said he does not anticipate a service competing with the private sector firms.
The posting requesting proposals follows a little more than a year after City Hall considered and then abandoned an idea to hire a firm that would have provided free rides covering short distances. The free rides would have been to or from a bus stop and were seen by officials as an extension of the fare-free bus system. There was broad resistance from taxi and transportation companies to the earlier idea. City Hall at the time was weighing an approximately $680,000 contract with a Florida company called Downtowner App, Inc.
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Park City has published the annual community guide to the Sundance Film Festival, an online booklet jammed with information about navigating Park City during what is normally the busiest stretch of the year.