Park City readies to offer free car rides | ParkRecord.com

Park City readies to offer free car rides

Downtowner would carry people to neighborhoods

by Jay Hamburger
THE PARK RECORD

Park City officials early in the week recommended the hiring of a firm that offers free rides covering short distances, a service that has drawn competitive concerns from taxi and shuttle companies.

City Hall staffers want the Park City Council to approve a contract with a company called Downtowner App, Inc. The contract is pegged at up to $358,727 and would cover six months ending in mid-January. The service would launch July 10, according to a City Hall report submitted to Mayor Jack Thomas and the City Council in anticipation of a meeting on Thursday. The City Council could vote on the contract at the meeting.

Downtowner App, Inc. is one of four firms that submitted proposals. A selection committee consisting of three City Hall staffers and one Summit County representative unanimously supported Downtowner App, Inc.

City Hall sees a service like the one offered by Downtowner App, Inc. as complementing the free bus system. The Downtowner App Inc. service would reach deeper into neighborhoods than the bus system, as an example. Someone would use an app to order a vehicle under the service. The vehicles would run on electricity, something that officials see as advancing City Hall's environmental goals.

The report to the elected officials indicates the six-month term is seen as a pilot program. The service would be limited to several Park City neighborhoods stretching out from Old Town. The initial neighborhoods are proposed as Prospector, Thaynes Canyon, the Aerie and Bonanza Park. The range does not include the heavily populated Park Meadows nor anywhere outside the Park City limits.

Staffers would return to the City Council in October to assess the program and consider an expansion into places like Park Meadows and other neighborhoods, perhaps including Aspen Springs.

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Downtowner App, Inc. operates in communities in Florida and California as well as the mountain resort of Aspen, Colorado. The experience in Aspen is especially notable since mountain resorts like Aspen and Park City face similar challenges in traffic and transportation in addition to climate.

Some in the taxi and shuttle industry expressed early concern about the prospects of City Hall hiring a firm like Downtowner App, Inc. Park City sought proposals in the spring, spurring the worries from taxis and shuttles. There is concern that a free transportation service will hurt the business of the taxis and shuttles.

The City Hall report notes there was similar concern from taxis in Aspen when Downtowner App, Inc. arrived. Park City staffers spoke to their counterparts in Aspen.

"As part of those conversations Aspen staff did confirm there was initial concern expressed by the taxi industry related to market share however that concern is nearly non-existent given the way in which the service operates and the trip type the service is intended to serve," the report says.

The report acknowledges Park City plans ongoing discussions with taxis and shuttles.

A Downtowner App, Inc. executive declined to comment on Tuesday, indicating the company would withhold public statements until after the City Council meeting on Thursday.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Marsac Building. A public hearing and vote are scheduled.