New bus will run along U.S. 40 from Heber to Park City
When Dax Massengill quit his job at Stein Eriksen Lodge at Deer Valley Resort, he ended a nearly 15-year career in the hospitality industry in Park City so he could take a gamble on a new business venture.
Massengill said he wanted to satisfy a need among his fellow service industry workers and established the Green Star Express as a shuttle between Heber City and Park City. According to the website, the Green Star Express is a "safe, affordable, eco-friendly transportation for commuters and visitors."
"There had been talks about establishing transportation between Heber and Park City for some time, but no one wanted to make it happen," Massengill said. "There are a lot of people who come into Park City for the winter time and no one has transportation. Whether this is a bust or not, I’m trying to get people into a different way of thinking and to take as many vehicles off the road as I can so we can reduce our carbon footprint.
"When I moved here from back east, I was always commuting from Salt Lake City and then when I moved to Heber it was the same thing. I’ve been commuting every day for eight years and I got tired of it," Massengill said.
In September, Massengill upgraded his commercial license to a class B license and purchased a standard-sized school bus for around $5,000 to establish Mountain Express Cabs and Shuttles, LLC. He has hired two additional drivers and is supplementing the business out of his own pocket.
The Green Star Express offers a one-way ticket for $3 and a seven roundtrip punch pass for $35 with several pick-up locations in Heber City. Riders are dropped off and picked up at the Fresh Market in Park City.
Massengill began providing the service in November. He didn’t receive the response he had anticipated, though.
"We started it on Nov. 29, but ridership was not what we were thinking so we only ran it for two days," Massengill said. "We pulled back to see if we could generate more interest. Liking a Facebook page doesn’t generate ridership. People have to be willing and wanting to ride."
Service is scheduled to resume Wednesday, Dec. 16.
Massengill said he is currently discussing a potential partnership with Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts to bus employees from Heber to Park City.
"Vail Resorts contacted me and asked me if I would be willing to provide transportation for their team members and they would buy the bus out," Massengill said. "If they do, we will be looking at purchasing another bus to get commuters as well."
Vail Resorts declined to comment.
With transportation issues front and center on most agendas, several meetings have been recently held to address the issues, such as expanding Park City’s transit system. However, as Summit County and Park City continue to craft their short-range transit plans few solutions are readily available.
Alfred Knotts, Park City transportation planning manager, said "anything that can help get additional cars off the road" has the city’s support.
"We have analyzed demand in Heber and there is obviously a big demand," Knotts said. "But we are having to reallocate our resources over the next fiscal year for the next budget cycle to see how we can provide that, and anyone who can do that in the meantime we are 100 percent in support of that.
"We have established this transportation management association and its partnership between public and private entities to discuss employee and resort transportation," Knotts said. "This is in the spirit of being able to provide that public and private partnership and it is very encouraging."
Mike Davis, Wasatch county manager, also offered his support to Massengill, referring to the operation as a "valuable tool." Davis said several conversations have taken place between Park City, Summit County and Wasatch County, but the "governments are cautiously proceeding."
"We’ve been able to work together and we feel we are heading in the right direction, but we are not quite there yet," Davis said. "As the county and Park City proceed with their transit and transportation studies we encouraging those to continue and it’s likely in the future sometime we will be able to put together what is necessary. But we don’t know what that will look like. Something like this where a private individual is filling a gap might be a great interim solution."
Caroline Ferris, Summit County regional transportation director, acknowledged the need for commuter services between cities in the Wasatch Back, especially Heber and Park City.
"I have heard a lot of our resort workers are living there and people have expressed a need," Ferris said. "It is definitely on our radar and we have to work that out with Wasatch County. But if they’re not ready, then we can’t impose our service in their area."
For more information about the Green Star Express, go to http://thegreenstarexpress.com/ .
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Councilor Glenn Wright estimated that the ability to provide renewable energy sources for county power will cost the average Summit County resident $0.70 per year above current costs.