Kent Cashel, City’s long-range transit planner, retires
May 1, 2015
Kent Cashel, long-range transit planner for City Hall, retired Friday after 17 years working for the city. He spoke with The Park Record about his years working on local transportation issues and what has, and hasn’t, changed over those years.
"We had the Olympics before us," Cashel said of his early days on the job. "It was a couple years away and I spent my first couple years as a grants accountant with the city, really working on the Olympics and federal funding. So our big challenge then was — how do we successfully run the Olympics, and that all went extremely well. And then we’ve been in a growth pattern since then, so obviously traffic and transit’s role in mitigating that have been with me through that whole period."
Cashel was instrumental in the local bus system, including its expansion out to the Snyderville Basin.
"Anything transportation related is extremely capital intensive. Whether it’s roads or transit, you really need to have the long run in mind," he said. "When I started we had 12 buses and really operated only seasonally, and now we have 37 buses that carry just over two million people a year. So I think what we’ve accomplished, particularly what a lot of people don’t see, is building the infrastructure that we need to really expand the bus system. We built the Iron Horse transit facility that can handle up to 60 buses. And so we really believe that will take us, you know, 15 to 20 years minimum into the future.
"I think building all that infrastructure, as well as the partnerships with Utah Transit Authority on a link to Salt Lake City and the regional system with Summit County have just been critical accomplishments. There’s so much work to be done — I mean you’re never going to be done with this and so there’s still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done. But we’ve laid a good foundation for those things to occur and really prepared the ground for expansion of transit. And I’m fairly confident that transit will play a big role in our traffic strategy going forward."
The ongoing Mountain Accord discussions may result in more visitors to Park City, meaning more traffic to worry about. Though it wouldn’t be Cashel’s job to deal with it, he says it would still be his problem "because I’m a citizen here and own property here, so I’m really vested in this community even if I’m not employed by the city."
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"Of course everybody’s focused on the tunnel, but it’s so much more than that," he said. "I believe our community’s primary concern is S.R. 224 and S.R. 248 and will continue to be into the foreseeable future. And a close look at what’s going on there is we’ve managed to achieve not only a local understanding, which we had before, that those roads are challenged, but an understanding at the higher state levels and federal levels, that we have issues here that are really urban in nature and require attention. And so I’m hopeful that the Mountain Accord will help us address a lot of our needs there. I know that the tunnel causes a lot of angst and I understand that, but the city and the county are really in the — it’s still a work in progress, it’s still a plan taking shape."
Cashel is confident Parkites will "do the right thing" in the end.
"We have the local control to determine what’s going to happen, ultimately. So I’m not losing a tremendous amount of sleep over it, but obviously, yes, I’m concerned about anything of that nature that we do because it could change the way things operate and the community that we have. So we have lots of active, local citizens that are going to make sure we walk the right path. So I’m confident in that end game, that we’ll do the right thing. But there’s still a lot of information that needs to be gathered on all of that. I mean, even though it’s been looked at, there’s still gaping areas of information that need to be filled in. And that will be part of Phase Two of the project."
From before the Olympics to now, local concerns remain more or less the same, Cashel said.
"All of us came here to be in a special place and I think once we arrived we kind of hoped it would just stay the way that we found it. I’ve been here 30 years and throughout that time it’s always evolved and changed and in my mind has always gotten better. I know everyone wouldn’t share that opinion," he said. "There’s always been this angst over growth and I think it’s because everyone that comes here loves what they find and they just don’t want it to evolve. But the reality is it’s been evolving continually. I’m sure the miners that were here said ‘hey all we can have here is mining.’"
One thing that has changed in Cashel’s eyes is the scale of the growth.
"There’s a big difference and it’s this: the growth was, we could comprehend the growth in the ’80s. You didn’t like it and it seemed really like, you would notice every house that went up, is a good way to think about it. Now, the growth numbers we’re talking about, I can’t even fathom. Other than I grew up in Phoenix and I know what that kind of growth looks like. But so much of it is out of our direct control now. And the majority of it is outside the municipal government’s direct control. We can try to shape it, but we can’t stop it, we can’t — we really have no direct control. So I think that that’s what’s different — you used to worry about what was happening within your own city’s boundaries. And now, it’s in Wasatch County, it’s in Summit County, and many of these things have already been approved, they’re just waiting for the economy."
Now that he’s retired, Cashel said he’s focusing on being "a better father, a better husband and a better son."
"My career has spanned 35 years — I’ve just devoted my whole life to work really, the majority of my life," he said. "I’ve got one boy, and it’s his final year of college baseball — he plays for Northern Colorado. I’m going to travel with his team next year. And then I’ve got a 90-year-old mother I want to spend some time with and my wife’s always supported me, so I want to pay back that debt."
Cashel is confident he is leaving the city’s transportation issues in good hands.
"Right now both the county and the city government are firmly focused on traffic and transportation and I think you’ve got a staff here that’s focused on it and they just need a little space to get this planning work done," he said. "And I just hope the community will give us that space. And if they are, I’m confident our transportation future will be secured."
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