Uber rides into Park City for Sundance
January 12, 2016
The transportation company Uber will ride into Old Town during the Sundance Film Festival.
Park City leaders recently approved an agreement with festival organizers setting aside the flagpole parking lot on lower Swede Alley for Uber, an official Sundance sponsor. City Hall has long reached deals with Sundance for the use of public property for the festival itself or for use by corporate interests with official ties to Sundance.
The Park City Council unanimously approved an addendum to a wider agreement between City Hall and Sundance allowing Uber to use the flagpole lot. There was no public input prior to the vote and the elected officials did not speak extensively about the agreement prior to the vote. Andy Beerman, a City Councilor, suggested perhaps the flagpole lot could be used for taxis after the festival.
A City Hall report drafted in anticipation of the meeting indicated Uber had between 150 and 200 drivers in Old Town during Sundance in 2015, increasing the amount of traffic along Main Street.
"Staff expects, given the nationwide growth of Uber, that the number of Uber drivers who could be in the vicinity (of) Old Town could be much higher this year than during Sundance 2015," the report, drafted by Dave Gustafson, a City Hall project manager, says.
According to Gustafson, the Uber drivers will drop off passengers and then "report back to the Flagpole Lot and wait until their next fare is dispatch from Uber."
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"In the past, drivers would stage alongside the road, thus adding to the Main Street congestion," the report says.
It says the agreement is expected to "have a positive impact, albeit minor, on our community carbon footprint, as it will reduce the number of vehicles driving on Main Street looking for a fare and will reduce, by agreement, idling."
Uber also intends to operate a hospitality tent in the flagpole lot, the report says. The 2016 festival is the first with Uber as an official sponsor. Holding the status of an official sponsor made it possible for Uber to negotiate a deal with City Hall to use public property.
The agreement is priced at $17,500 in fees and damage deposit. Uber is allowed to ready the site starting on Jan. 19 and must exit by Feb. 1. One-third of the lot was made available to Uber for loading in and then moving out. Uber was granted exclusive use of the lot from Jan. 21 until Jan. 31 on a 24-hour-a-day basis. The deal involves 52 parking spots. The lot normally would have been converted into paid parking during Sundance. The dollar figure of $17,500 is based on an estimate of the City Hall revenue that will be lost by locating Uber in the flagpole lot instead of operating the lot as paid parking.
There is usually a significant increase in the number of taxis and shuttles operating inside Park City during the festival, which draws the largest crowds of the year to the city. Main Street is especially busy with taxis as drivers jockey for passengers headed to screenings, parties and their lodging accommodations. The festival runs from Jan. 21 until Jan. 31. The festival is usually at its busiest during the opening weekend. The City Hall report says the Uber setup in the flagpole lot "should have no effect on the competing transportation companies."
But Rob O’Brien, the owner of the Park City-based Ace Transportation, known as 649-TAXI, said in an interview Uber has a competitive advantage by securing the flagpole lot as a result of the Sundance sponsorship. The flagpole lot will serve as a "bona fide taxi stand," he said.
"I don’t have that. They don’t let me have my own taxi stand," O’Brien said.