County transit plan: Jeremy Ranch to Deer Valley in a half hour, with buses leaving every 15 minutes
Basin microtransit could begin in mid May
People looking to get from Kimball Junction to a trailhead with their mountain bikes this summer might have some new tools at their disposal if Summit County’s new transit system offers the services officials have been discussing in recent weeks.
While budgetary constraints have nixed some early ideas, like hourly service to Kamas and adding service to Hideout or Heber, officials are planning to extend the existing 11 Black South Summit route to Francis and to launch an Uber-like system of on-demand shuttles to bring farflung riders in the Snyderville Basin to the core service area around S.R. 224.
Summit County has hired consulting company Via Transportation to spearhead the design of the new High Valley Transit system and, at a district meeting last week, consultants explained proposed route changes.
The county is planning for one main line to run every 15 minutes from Jeremy Ranch to Deer Valley, stopping at the Canyons Village transit center and the Park City Mountain Resort base area; two smaller circulators running through Kimball Junction and along Bitner Road; six daily round trips between Park City, Kamas and Francis; and a 10-square-mile microtransit zone encompassing the greater Snyderville Basin in which riders can request an on-demand ride.
The whole system is designed to help riders get around the greater Park City area, and officials said it will incorporate information about and facilitate connection with Park City Transit routes.
Park City Transit will continue to operate bus lines in Park City proper, and officials have said that riders will not experience a decline in service because of the organizational change.
Officials expect the vast majority of riders will use Via’s app, which is planned to feature transfer options and real-time locations of other buses.
Officials have said the 10 White Electric Express route is planned to continue service. It runs from Kimball Junction to the Old Town transit center with stops at the Canyons Village base area and Fresh Market in Park City.
The revamped transit routes are part of Summit County’s split from Park City Transit, with the county assuming operational responsibility for transit lines in the Snyderville Basin starting July 1.
Park City has long provided transit service in the Basin, but the city and county have appeared to be moving in different directions recently. Park City has said its resources were stretched thin and that it would like to focus on service within its borders, while the county was looking to expand transit to seek regional solutions incorporating the greater Wasatch Back.
Eventually, county officials hope neighboring jurisdictions like Wasatch County or Coalville will join High Valley Transit and continue to expand services.
Already, officials have announced an expansion to Francis, whose mayor Byron Ames has said that he’s heard from multiple people who wanted a transit option to get into Park City. While transit has been touted as a potential solution to the area’s traffic congestion, Ames suggested some Francis residents were also excited at the prospect of being able to head into Park City for a day of shopping or entertainment on Main Street without having to worry about driving.
Caroline Rodriguez, Summit County’s regional transportation planning director, said that service might be expanded to Heber or Hideout as funding and interest allow. The 11 Black line that runs to Kamas three times most mornings and evenings passes Hideout each way.
The logistical challenges of route-making are only a few of the hurdles for the fledgling district, which must also disentangle a decade-long relationship with Park City Transit that involved sharing costs for things that aren’t easy to split, like buses.
At a meeting last week, county officials balked at some suggested contract management provisions, including using an Uber-like model for microtransit drivers and particulars about insurance and liability.
This isn’t the first time local officials have viewed microtransit as filling a gap in the area’s offerings. In 2017, Park City stepped away from a proposal to award a microtransit contract in a bid to reduce congestion after encountering resistance from the local transportation industry. A similar, on-demand ride program was launched as Canyons Village Connect to handle ski-resort related traffic.
Via’s suggested microtransit system would use smaller vehicles than full-size buses to pick up riders and bring them to their final destination or a transfer point.
Officials said the setup will deliver shorter ride times compared to current bus routes. Users would input an origin and a destination on the app, and the app would suggest how to get there, including a microtransit option to deliver riders to a transit center or bus stop to transfer to a more suitable ride.
County officials have asked about the transit vans’ suitability to the area’s icy, narrow roads and ability to handle the gear many riders might take along, and were told the vans would be equipped with ski and bike racks.
Last week, Via Transportation offered more details about the routes planned to begin in a few months. Officials hope the microtransit system will be available by late May.
The 7 Pink line that was extended into Summit Park in 2019 is planned to be scrapped, replaced by a microtransit system that will be offered in Jeremy Ranch, Summit Park and Kimball Junction.
In its place, the 6 Lime route will run more frequently and extend to the Jeremy Ranch park-and-ride lot. Officials said it would take less than a half hour to get from Jeremy Ranch to Deer Valley and that the bus would run every 15 minutes.
The latest draft route includes stops at the PCMR and Deer Valley base areas, as well as the Ecker Hill park-and-ride lot and the Old Town transit center.
The other proposed changes include ending the 8 Brown route through the Trailside neighborhood and continuing scheduled service along Bitner Road.
The neighborhoods that appear likely to lose fixed-route transit are parts of Summit Park, Trailside and Silver Springs. Rodriguez said the transit district had received roughly 25 emails from residents of the Silver Springs neighborhood who feared they would lose access to transit if the 7 Pink line is disbanded.
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Jenn Armstrong-Solomon provides the services of her trauma-sensitive yoga nonprofit, Tall Mountain Wellness, free of charge to groups like the Summit County Drug Court and the county jail.