Park City shifts gears in efforts to offer free car rides | ParkRecord.com

Park City shifts gears in efforts to offer free car rides

City Hall narrows the scope of service as it again seeks a firm

by Jay Hamburger
THE PARK RECORD

Park City officials are again seeking a firm to offer free rides as part of a desire to expand the transit system, a move made shortly after an earlier effort to tap a company ended after taxi and transportation companies expressed broad competitive concerns.

City Hall in the spring sought a company to offer free rides covering short distances. Officials said a service would complement the free bus system that has long operated in Park City. The Park City Council in late June opted to delay immediately hiring a firm and instead wanted City Hall to post another document requesting qualifications and quotes that more narrowly defines the service.

The new posting involves modifications meant to address some of the concerns of the transportation companies as well as those expressed by the elected officials. The City Council twice in June could have authorized a $358,727 contract with a firm called Downtowner App, Inc. The elected officials did not authorize the contract and instead ordered the new posting.

The new posting alters the hours of the service from an original desire of 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. with a starting time of 7:30 a.m. during the ski season. The new posting involves hours from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. with the same ski-season starting time.

Another key change between the earlier posting and the new one outlines that a ride must begin and end within the same zone, or service area. The posting divides greater Park City into six zones, including Old Town, the Bonanza Drive corridor in combination with Prospector and Park Meadows in combination with neighborhoods like Aspen Springs and Thaynes Canyon.

City Hall's posting, meanwhile, says a trip must begin or end at a bus stop.

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The changes seem to address some of the crucial concerns raised by the transportation companies. They were worried the service would operate in a similar fashion as a traditional taxi, taking someone from a pick-up point to the destination rather than the service outlined in the new posting that does not offer door-to-door service under most circumstances. Door-to-door service, though, would be offered if there is not a nearby bus stop, according to a City Hall summary of the new posting.

Park City wants the vehicles to be powered by electricity, something that aligns with City Hall's wide-ranging environmental program. Driver tips would be accepted. It would be an app-based service. City Hall outlines an initial term of between six months and a year starting on or about Dec. 1. There would be an option to extend the deal for up to three years.

Park City and Summit County leaders see a service, known as microtransit, as a traffic-fighting measure. They say offering free rides to and from a bus stop will encourage more people to ride buses, reducing traffic by private vehicles. Transportation is a priority for City Hall as it attempts to address the long-running complaints about traffic in Park City. A microtransit service would be a nontraditional method of fighting traffic.

Submittals are due by Aug. 4. A contract could be awarded shortly after the deadline. If a firm is hired, the service would be expected to begin in the winter. The original posting garnered four proposals, including the one by Downtowner App, Inc. There was concern among some of the Park City-area transportation firms that the City Hall document requesting proposals was not well publicized as the deadline approached.

It seems likely there could be greater interest by firms, including local ones, in the new posting since the service has received wider publicity as it became controversial. While the transportation companies were concerned with competition, there was some support for a service from the general public. Supporters said they would use a free ride service as an alternative means of transportation.

The current City Hall posting requesting qualifications and quotes is available on the municipal website, http://www.parkcity.org. The direct link is: http://parkcity.org/Home/Components/RFP/RFP/8146/2339.