Summit County’s transit district proposes a budget 35% higher than 2021
$5M jump pays for startup costs, new building, savings
The newly formed High Valley Transit District is proposing a budget that is nearly $5 million higher than 2021, a 35% increase.
When Summit County split its transit efforts from Park City’s, some detractors worried it would leave taxpayers paying millions more for transit services from two governments rather than one.
Kim Carson, who chairs High Valley Transit’s board of trustees, refuted the notion that the High Valley Transit District’s costs are duplicative, indicating there was no other way to provide the expansion in services the district is offering.
Park City Transit was operating at or beyond capacity, officials have said, and no increased service levels or expansion was possible with the previous arrangement.
The increased budget also pays for “significant” startup costs, Carson said, including renting space and taking over the full cost of the PC-SLC connect route from Kimball Junction to Salt Lake City.
And $3.7 million of the total $4.9 million proposed increase is allocated for savings and the construction of a new transit facility.
Carson touted the expanded service High Valley Transit offers, saying the expanded routes serve an additional 20,000 people.
“That’s a huge deal,” she said.
The district has launched a micro-transit service that covers a large part of the Snyderville Basin and a bus route running on S.R. 224 from Jeremy Ranch to Deer Valley Resort targeted to leave every 15 minutes. The actual frequency is around 20 minutes, however, due to a staffing shortage, according to the district.
“The 35 percent increase in budget represents a 54 percent increase in total service hours as well as a large expansion of service area, to Francis, the top of Summit Park, Jeremy Ranch, Pinebrook, Silver Summit, and Silver Creek,” a High Valley Transit report states. “Further, those customers that previously had 30-minute fixed route service now have 15-minute service, effectively doubling their fixed route transit service.”
Though taxpayers are now paying for two local transit districts to provide functions like human resources, financials and legal representation, Carson and other officials have said the type of expansion that the county seeks would not have been possible otherwise.
The district last week met with officials from Wasatch County, Summit County and the state agency that controls the Mayflower development near the Jordanelle Reservoir to discuss expanding services to those areas.
Officials have touted regional transit solutions as key to solving the area’s traffic congestion issues.
Carson said the district is seeing robust ridership that surpassed her expectations, with the district this summer meeting a mark of riders per driver hour that Carson hoped it would achieve by peak tourist season in December.
She said the midweek numbers and other metrics indicate residents, and not just tourists, have started using the service. Peak morning and afternoon ridership indicates workers are also using High Valley Transit, officials have said.
“If we’re really going to reduce cars on the road and traffic, we’ve got to get the locals using the transit system,” Carson said.
High Valley Transit is funded primarily through sales taxes, a revenue source officials say is significantly supported by visitors to the area. It is also financed through grants, and the district’s Executive Director Caroline Rodriguez indicated the $1.6 million the district has earmarked for a new transit facility, tentatively planned for land the county owns in Silver Summit, would be reimbursed by federal transit authorities.
Carson said the district is being fiscally responsible. She cited as an example the decision to buy buses rather than lease them, which would have been less expensive initially.
“That was the right thing for the district, as far as what would bring the most value to the district. We got these buses at a good deal,” she said.
The district also has $9 million in a reserve fund and is planning to contribute $2.1 million to it this year.
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