Sundance traffic in Park City: a love story, or a thriller? |

Sundance traffic in Park City: a love story, or a thriller?

Park City officials have stepped up measures during the Sundance Film Festival this year in an effort to reduce the traffic and parking impacts on Old Town, including placing a sign on upper Main Street restricting traffic into the residential neighborhood. The measures include certain one-way roads for the first time.
Jay Hamburger/Park Record

Park City officials can rework the traffic pattern in Old Town.

And they can discourage traffic in the neighborhood by requiring access passes for residents and implementing parking restrictions and higher prices for the public parking that remains.

But until the weekend it will be unclear whether the stepped-up measures taken by City Hall during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival have accomplished the goal of diminishing traffic in the tightly packed neighborhood.

Will it be a love story on the roads during the opening days of Sundance, or a thriller? And will there be a Hollywood ending by the time Sundance finishes?

Main Street has long been one of the central locales for Sundance, with the traffic and parking spilling into the surrounding neighborhood. There have been calls over the years for Park City officials and Sundance organizers to strengthen the protections for the neighborhood. City Hall regulates parking on residential streets close to Main Street, such as Park Avenue and Woodside Avenue, but there are typically numerous violations anyway during Sundance, prompting complaints to the police. City Hall and Sundance organizers offer a robust transit system, but the traffic is typically some of the worst of the year regardless of the efforts.

It seemed there was momentum after the festival in 2019 to reinvigorate the traffic and parking plans for Sundance. At one point it appeared City Hall could consider implementing a plan modeled on the one that was crafted for the 2002 Winter Olympics, which involved giant park-and-ride lots on the outskirts of Park City and a large fleet of buses to shuttle people in and out of Park City. Officials, though, determined that sort of system was not feasible for Sundance. The festival is, essentially, too small as compared to an Olympics to use the Games as a transportation and parking model.

City Hall instead opted to rework some of the traffic and parking plans. It is an ambitious blueprint that will be tested over the weekend as the large crowds arrive for what are typically the busiest days of the festival. Park Avenue, a critical road, has been turned into a one-way route in the northbound, or outbound, direction between the intersections with Deer Valley Drive and Heber Avenue. The one-way restriction impacts a critical stretch of road that is normally one of the routes to Main Street as well as the Sundance screening room at the Park City Library.

There are also one-way restrictions on several streets in Old Town — Hillside Avenue and one block each of 4th Street and 5th Street. The one-way roads are meant to reduce the traffic crush in Old Town. The access passes, meanwhile, have been distributed to people who live in Old Town and will need to be shown at checkpoints at certain times.

The measures were adopted amid mounting worries about traffic on narrow Old Town streets where it is oftentimes difficult for two vehicles to pass each other. The streets during Sundance are heavily used by residents, festival-goers, taxis, shuttles and ridesharing vehicles, creating backups that can leave traffic at a standstill sometimes. Some of the drivers are picking people up or dropping them off on Main Street while others are circling looking for parking spaces.

The Park City Police Department usually fields a slew of complaints during the opening days of Sundance about traffic and parking. Drivers sometimes leave their vehicles on streets in the neighborhood surrounding Main Street, a practice that is prohibited under City Hall’s permit system for Old Town. Some drivers, though, tend to see that as an option anyway when they realize there are heavy parking restrictions and increased costs for parking in the Main Street core itself. They opt to risk a ticket or, possibly, a towed vehicle.

There are issues, meanwhile, sometimes with the crowds leaving vehicles on private property without permission or at a business without intending to go inside and instead heading to Main Street. In both of those scenarios, the owner of the property could likely have the vehicle towed. Some businesses, in Old Town and elsewhere, during Sundance protect their lots with signs and patrols.

The restrictions and the increased prices for public parking are seen as nudging festival-goers toward the transit system. The fare-free City Hall bus system, with lines running from the Main Street core, to the mountain resorts and points in the Snyderville Basin, runs on an expanded schedule during Sundance. A festival shuttle that stops at Sundance venues runs alongside the municipal system. Both of the systems are jammed, but many see them as a better option than a private vehicle based on the traffic and the parking restrictions.

It might not be known until the closing credits of Sundance whether a Hollywood ending was written into the script.

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