Summit County’s new transit district has started spending
Buses and major contracts among recent steps
High Valley Transit, the nascent district set to take over Summit County’s transit operations in two months, recently started spending cash in a big way, inking deals with a consultant to run the operation and instructing staffers to secure the vehicles that will soon shuttle passengers around the Snyderville Basin.
Officials agreed to spend nearly $900,000 for two buses and agreed to a master services agreement and other deals with River North Transit LLC, the subsidiary of Via Transportation that will run services here.
Kim Carson, High Valley Transit’s board president, said the contracts and vehicle purchases are exciting first steps for the district.
“Everything we’re doing, each agreement we get finalized, it puts us one step forward,” Carson said.
High Valley Transit is seeking to take over transit services in the Snyderville Basin and Kamas Valley from Park City Transit starting July 1. Both Summit County and Park City stress the importance of mass transit to alleviate traffic and environmental issues, but officials have diverging future goals. Summit County has been looking for more control over routes and to expand the program into a more regional one that serves the greater Wasatch Back, while Park City officials have said its transit resources are at capacity. The entities agreed to split last year and officials are in the process of divvying up revenue streams and assets.
The Summit County Council recently agreed to an interlocal agreement with the transit district, transferring some county property and certain sales tax revenues to fund its budget.
Carson said the district will have a $10.5 million budget in its first year, which includes $2.3 million for a microtransit service and $6.9 million for the fixed bus route operation and initial consulting costs.
The microtransit system will bring passengers from the greater Snyderville Basin area to the fixed routes the district will be running, including a high-frequency line from Jeremy Ranch to Deer Valley Resort along S.R. 224. The district will also operate a route between Park City, Kamas and Francis.
The routes will be operated by a consultant, River North, which will handle day-to-day functions like procuring vehicles, hiring bus drivers and creating and managing an app for users. Summit County will maintain oversight of the contract, with regional transportation director Caroline Rodriguez serving as the district’s general manager. Four of the district’s five trustees are current or former county councilors.
Eventually, county officials hope the district will grow to serve cities like Heber, Coalville and Midway. In the immediate future, however, its focus is mostly the Snyderville Basin.
Users who are outside of the area served by fixed routes — generally along S.R. 224 — will be able to use an app to hail a ride on the microtransit system, and a van will take the rider to a transit stop where they can get on a bus.
The microtransit program covers the greater Basin area. It will use four-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna minivans that can carry six passengers and will be equipped with ski and bike racks. According to a recently presented timeline, officials expect the service to launch in mid-May. Carson said the program will expand service to some neighborhoods that have not previously been covered.
Some Basin residents in Summit Park and Silver Springs have expressed dismay that the fixed routes that previously served their neighborhoods will no longer be in operation under the new plan. High Valley Transit officials say the microtransit system will offer an alternative with shorter wait times than the previous routes.
The two diesel buses the district purchased were originally headed for Orlando before the pandemic prompted that order’s cancellation. Carson said the district did not consider purchasing electric buses because it doesn’t yet have the infrastructure in place to support them, but that officials would look to electric vehicles in the future.
The district also lacks an operations facility in which buses can be cleaned, parked and maintained. The initial plan was to construct a temporary bus barn on leased land in Kimball Junction for more than $400,000, but officials recently indicated they would prefer a permanent facility to avoid the cost of moving it.
They had planned to discuss the location during a closed meeting Thursday.
The preliminary timeline indicates temporary facilities at the Ecker Hill park-and-ride lot this summer and an October deadline to build a structure in Summit County.
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