Park City taxis don’t let up on gas pedal on free-ride opposition
They claim officials seem to be ‘dead set on looking cool’ with service
THE PARK RECORD
Park City taxi and transportation companies are not letting up on the gas pedal as opposition continues to a City Hall idea to hire a firm to provide free rides covering short distances.
Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council on Thursday evening received unscheduled testimony in opposition to the idea, a continuation of the transportation companies’ concerns that a service that offers free rides would significantly hurt business at a time when there is already increased competition from ride-sharing firms like Uber.
The elected officials were not prepared to address the service at the meeting and did not offer detailed comments. There is expected to be additional discussions shortly since Park City leaders in coming weeks will likely consider awarding a contract for the service. Submittals were due late Friday afternoon.
The comments on Thursday were similar to those made during past meetings, but they showed the transportation firms continue to have concerns even after City Hall tinkered with the details of the service in an effort to address their worries. Officials refer to the service as microtransit. It is meant to complement the fare-free bus system by carrying people to or from a bus stop.
Kerri Allardyce, who owns the black-car service Haute Cars, read a prepared statement claiming City Hall has ignored suggestions by the transportation companies. The process has been a “colossal waste of time for transportation professionals as you have taken zero input into consideration,” she said.
“Again it is clearly obvious to us that City Council is not at all concerned with supporting local business/the workforce or getting our input as to how to resolve our real transportation issues,” she said in the prepared statement.
She said the service, as described in a City Hall document requesting proposals, is “cost prohibitive to all local transportation companies.” The municipal government wants a service to involve environmentally friendly vehicles. She estimates the cost could climb to more than $750,000 over a six-month period.
“City Council seems to be dead set on looking cool and calling yourself ‘The Greenest City in America’ using taxpayer dollars. Microtransit is not a real issue at this time nor is there a single successful example of microtransit working in any city in America. But yet you seem to be solely focused on spending money on this,” the statement said.
Another speaker on Thursday, Four Seasons Concierge owner Sam Rubin, questioned changes between an earlier City Hall document requesting proposals and an updated one that was issued after the initial resistance. Rubin noted an upward revision in insurance requirements and the municipal government’s ability to cancel any agreement. There was also a question about whether a hired firm can use the vehicles outside the hours specified in a contract with City Hall.
Mark Blue, a City Council candidate, said City Hall should not move into the taxi business. He added municipal funds would be better spent by providing guaranteed parking to people who work on Main Street.
The City Council in June could have hired a company called Downtowner App, Inc. for a service but opted not to ink a $358,727 contract after receiving an initial round of opposition from the local transportation firms. City Hall instead revised the document requesting proposals with modifications meant to address the concerns, including altering the hours so they start and end earlier.
Officials see a microtransit service as another step as City Hall and the County Courthouse attempt to address to long-running concerns about traffic in the Park City area. They say free car rides to bus stops would encourage more people to use the transit system, reducing the number of drivers in the area.
A critic of a Park City workforce or otherwise affordable housing project in Old Town said he is considering an appeal of the Park City Planning Commission’s approval of the development.