Silver Springs residents are skeptical of a plan to replace the 7 Pink bus route with microtransit vans
One resident says removing the line feels punitive
A normal ski day for Brian Connolly and his young family involves tromping out of their Silver Springs home in ski boots, walking down their street and through a path maintained by a neighbor almost directly to a bus stop, where they catch a ride on the 7 Pink bus to the Canyons Village base area.
“The bus is a big part of our lives,” Connolly said. “And as my children get older, we’ve heard from other people in our neighborhood who have kids 12 to 14 years old, the bus allows them the freedom to get around. For us, it’s an important part of why we chose to move to Silver Springs.”
Starting July 1, the 7 Pink bus route running through the neighborhood will be scrapped, replaced by a system of on-demand rides in minivans operated by Summit County’s new High Valley Transit District.
The district is planning a fleet of nine four-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna minivans to be equipped with bike racks and ski racks. Users could hail a ride using an app or by calling a dispatcher. The vans would take users to their destination or to a bus stop on the main line running along S.R. 224.
Officials say the microtransit system will provide more frequent and convenient service to more people, but for some in Silver Springs who have come to rely on the bus, the change is not a welcome one.
“The biggest issue for me is, how am I supposed to take my kids skiing, or to ski lessons or just to ski as a family if I have to bring car seats with me?” Connolly said.
The microtransit vans will require car seats for young children, and solo riders will need to be at least 10 years old, officials said.
Connolly added that he didn’t know the county was removing the route until recently, and came away from discussions believing there was nothing to be done to change officials’ minds.
Transit officials said they would continually evaluate the system and stressed the operations were flexible, adding that there was room to grow and add capacity if ridership warranted it.
Some Silver Springs residents voiced their skepticism about the new system during a webinar the transit district hosted on Tuesday. Former County Councilor Kim Carson, who is now the president of the transit district’s board of trustees, indicated that the fixed line running through the neighborhood wasn’t going to come back.
“It goes back to the efficiency of the total system,” Carson said. “And even though it may not seem like the five-minute detour through Silver Springs is that much more time or wear and tear on the equipment, it does when you look at the number of routes per day. It’s a significant amount of time. And it decreases the efficiency for everybody else that’s riding it.”
High Valley Transit is taking over operations of the bus lines in the Snyderville Basin on June 30. It has contracted with an international transit consulting group, Via Transportation, which analyzed the current routes and suggested changes to operations and means of providing service.
The proposed route changes include a main line running from Jeremy Ranch to Deer Valley Resort every 15 minutes — a more robust version of the 6 Lime line that will now be called the Spiro Local — and the expansion of microtransit options.
Carson said the efficiency of the main spine of the system, the route running on S.R. 224, will be crucial. She said that detouring into Silver Springs would add 15% to the operation costs and require hiring additional drivers and procuring additional buses.
“It’s our responsibility to look at the system as a whole, and we can’t favor one neighborhood over another,” she said. “It has been a unique service. I think really Silver Springs has had access to something that nobody else in the Basin has. And I realize that’s difficult if you live right on that route, that it’s not going to be the same way.”
That’s the case for Connolly, who now faces the prospect of not being able to use public transportation with his kids without taking along car seats, which he said would make trips to the ski hill or Main Street untenable.
The removal of the Pink line seems punitive, he said, and he questioned the cost increases officials associated with it.
“They should be looking at how to better serve other parts of the county and giving them bus access that we now have,” Connolly said.
Joe Spink, a High Valley Transit trustee and the only member of the board who is not a current or former county councilor, asked Silver Springs residents for patience and to work together with officials to improve the transit system.
“Give it a chance. Use it,” Spink said. “We don’t — the machine, the computer, the algorithm doesn’t learn if people don’t use it. So if you’re not happy with this and you’re not going to use it out of spite, you’re not helping your own cause. … We need you to use this system. We need you to give us feedback, because we’re going to take your feedback and we’re going to make it better.”
Connolly indicated he was willing to do so, but doubted microtransit would prove to be a suitable solution.
“I will give it a try, and we’re told we will have no choice but to give it a try, but I’m skeptical,” he said.
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