Summit County opens park-and-ride lot across from Ecker Hill Middle School | ParkRecord.com

Summit County opens park-and-ride lot across from Ecker Hill Middle School

Summit County officially opened the park-and-ride lot on Kilby Road across from Ecker Hill Middle School on Friday. The lot has 450 spaces and is intended to capture traffic on Interstate 80 before it reaches Kimball Junction.

Scott Hallenberg always thought park-and-ride lots were a creative way to capture traffic by allowing drivers to park at satellite locations and then take public transportation to their destinations.

Hallenberg, who lives in Pinebrook, said he's used the Richardson Flat lot when it's available during the Sundance Film Festival to save himself the hassle of trying to find parking in town.

However, he's not convinced that Summit County's newest remote parking lot on Kilby Road across from Ecker Hill Middle School will be successful. In fact, he thinks it is a really bad idea.

"With the proximity to the school, I just think it could be an issue," he said. "You never know who is going to use it or take advantage of it being so close to Interstate 80. I read the sheriff's reports and all the activity that takes place on the interstate. You just never know."

Summit County officially opened the lot to commuters on Friday, with Park City Transit providing bus service to and from the lot. Buses are now running approximately every 10 minutes from about 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Two existing transit routes — known as the Pink and Lime — were redesigned to accommodate the service.

The Pink line will continue to serve existing stops at places such as Jeremy Ranch, Pinebrook, Kimball Junction and Silver Springs before it terminates at the Canyons Village. The Lime route will also take riders through Kimball Junction to the transit hub at the Canyons Village, but that line will end at the Park City base area of Park City Mountain Resort. Riders will be able to access the 10-minute express line at the Kimball Junction transit center.

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Officials are hoping the 450-space remote parking lot will capture traffic from Interstate 80 before it reaches Kimball Junction, especially employees who work at PCMR. The Canyons Village Management Association reserved 200 spots for Canyons Village employees and plans to eventually require employees to park off-site.

The park-and-ride at Ecker Hill was selected over two other properties that were also being considered for a remote lot. Staffers ultimately decided to focus on the Ecker Hill area because of its proximity to both Salt Lake City and Park City. The site was previously a paved view area off the interstate.

"People who weren't really familiar with operations there always looked at it and assumed it was a park-and-ride," said Caroline Rodriguez, Summit County's regional transportation planning director. "It made sense. It fits into the overall plan that we have for the Jeremy Ranch and Pinebrook area."

Some question whether the lot will do what it is intended and whether it will actually deter drivers since it is not directly accessible from Interstate 80. Drivers on Interstate 80 will access the lot from the Jeremy Ranch and Pinebrook exits via Kilby Road. Staffers and the County Council contemplated the feasibility of constructing an interchange to connect the Ecker park-and-ride with the interstate, but it would have likely cost more than $25 million and required coordination with the Utah Department of Transportation.

Others are skeptical that Kilby Road can handle the volume of traffic that the new lot will create. But, Rodriguez said Kilby Road was redesigned with the remote parking lot in mind. However, Rodriguez admitted new Jeremy Ranch and Pinebrook interchanges were supposed to be constructed at the same time. Those projects will not start until the spring and are expected to significantly impact traffic.

"It's certainly not how we envisioned it. We thought it would be upgraded at the same time," Rodriguez said. "But, we are still confident it can serve the volume of traffic we have anticipated. I totally understand their concerns and volume was taken into account when Kilby was designed. We stand by the design of that road."

The biggest hurdle for the county so far has been advertising the availability of open parking spaces, Rodriguez said. There are no signs on the interstate notifying drivers of the park-and-ride lots location. But, she still hopes it will catch on as the word spreads.

Summit County resident Lisa Phinney suspects the lot will be used and could even help alleviate some traffic. However, she's not in favor of its location. Her son attends Ecker Hill Middle School and her daughter will next year.

"I asked my son who is in seventh grade what he thought about it and even he said it doesn't seem like a good idea to have all of these people taking the same bus as the kids," she said, referencing the fact that some children take the city buses when participating in after-school activities. "There could be 400 cars parked there and it won't all be skiers. It could be anyone. It seems like we are inviting trouble."

Kamas service extended

Another new feature of Park City Transit's winter schedule is that the Kamas Commuter will be running seven days a week.

Rodriguez said the service, which provides bus transportation to Park City from the Kamas park-and-ride lot adjacent to Volker's Bakery, "exceeded our expectations" and expanding it through the end of the week was a logical step. She said ridership has hovered between 950 and 1,200 a month. The commuter will maintain the same schedule over the weekends, with three morning and three afternoon routes. A stop was also added at the Park City Hospital.

"There are a lot of employees at the resort in the winter that would like to have that option to ride the Kamas route," she said. "Our large employers have done a lot in terms of incentivizing or requiring their employees to park off-site. We wanted to be a good partner and give them that option."

The buses that are currently being used for the Kamas route are the same ones that will be used over the weekend. But, more drivers will be added to serve the route.

"The most impressive thing about the route was that there was really no offseason," Rodriguez said. "Ridership didn't dip that much, which shows us that people are using it routinely and changing forever."