Transit services introduced in Summit County in 2017 regarded as a success | ParkRecord.com

Transit services introduced in Summit County in 2017 regarded as a success

(Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

The community's interest in Summit County and Park City's new transit services that were introduced in 2017 "blew officials out of the water," according to Caroline Rodriguez, Summit County's regional transportation director.

Bus service to the Kamas Valley and a circulator throughout the Kimball Junction area were launched over the summer as part of the county's short-range transit plan, along with the electric-bike program and electric-express route along S.R. 224. The services were funded through the sales tax initiatives voters approved in 2016 to pay for transportation-related improvements.

"They say it usually takes about three years for a transit service to catch on and for us to analyze and understand whether people are going to adopt it. But, we saw people riding the commuter and circulator right away," she said.

Once the tax initiatives were passed, county and city officials explored ways to "spend our transit dollars and get the biggest return," Rodriguez said. They identified the Kamas commuter as a service that could be implemented right away. It launched in June.

From November to mid-April, nearly 7,200 riders boarded the commuter, Rodriguez said.

The service provides three morning and evening runs Monday through Friday between 6:17 a.m. and 6:08 p.m. The service picks Kamas Valley residents up at the Kamas park-and-ride lot adjacent to Volker's Bakery. Stops are at the Deer Mountain Affordable Community, Park City Hospital, Park City High School, Fresh Market and the Old Town transit center. At the Quinn's Junction stop, riders are able to take a smaller vehicle to connect to the Kimball Junction transit center.

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"The only negative feedback we have heard is requests for stops at Black Rock Ridge," she said. "What I have really loved about the feedback on the commuter is that people are not just using it because they have to. When we did an on-board survey, people said they were using it because driving is stressful."

Rodriguez said the Kamas commuter will continue to run as normal throughout the shoulder seasons, but she added that officials "would love" to eventually add a mid-day service.

The Kimball Junction circulator, like the commuter, was debuted as part of the short-range transit plan. Kimball Junction business officials have said a circulator route had been on the business community's radar since before Newpark was built.

"It was always envisioned as part of our plans for Kimball Junction to improve walkability and make it friendlier for those who don't want to drive their vehicles," Rodriguez said.

The circulator service comprises two vehicles that drive along a designated route in opposite loops between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. The vehicles run approximately every 15 minutes. The circulator's schedule will not change during the shoulder seasons, Rodriguez said.

Riders can flag down a vehicle anywhere along the route, which runs along Highland Drive near Jupiter Bowl and the Snyderville Basin Recreation Fieldhouse, and Landmark Drive by Tanger Outlets and the Kimball Junction Transit Center, among other locations.

The popularity of the circulator has exceeded officials' expectations, Rodriguez said, with nearly 50,000 riders taking advantage of the service through March. Rodriguez admitted sometimes the vehicles may only have one passenger. But, she said other times they are full.

"It circulates pretty regularly and just because you don't see a person on it during one run, there can literally be someone on it 10 minutes later," she said. "Sometimes I've seen one person and other times I've seen seven. When you are looking at 50,000 riders, clearly people are riding it."

Rodriguez said the service is justified, even if only one person rides it.

"It means that people are using transit and that is the ultimate goal," she said. "The reason we have asked people to try transit or the bike share or walking is because we want them out of their cars and to be traveling in a more sustainable way. If a few people are doing it, then you are moving toward that goal."

In the coming months, Park City Transit will be exploring ways to add the circulator's route to its transit app that is available on iPhone and Android, as well as signage to identify designated stops.

"I think the biggest feedback I have heard is that people don't know when it is coming or they don't want to wave it down," Rodriguez said. "We are working hard on making some changes on the back end to address those concerns and work for people who don't want to flag it down. That's why we are putting the signs up. It won't stop if there is no one standing there, but if people feel more comfortable next to a sign then we will make that happen."

Over the summer, Summit County officials are expected to continue analyzing the locations in the Snyderville Basin that have been identified as potential remote parking lots to link neighborhoods that are not currently served by alternative transit methods.