Amy Roberts: Driving in circles
Most years, I end up in the Midwest for Christmas. It’s not by choice — my family is there. And unfortunately for me, Santa only seems to know my parents’ address. So that’s where I find myself opening presents usually.
There’s not much to do in Nebraska. It’s so flat you can watch your dog run away for three days. And last week when I was there, the thermometer rarely made a showing above zero. Suffice it to say, no one goes to Omaha for the weather. Or the scenery.
So I did what most of us do when bored, cold, and killing time: I wasted hours on social media. Between that and texting with friends, I stayed fairly caught up on Park City happenings while I was away. And all of my news sources seemed to agree on one thing — traffic here was ridiculous.
I shrugged at their observation. It was the busiest week of tourist season after all. Too many cars in too small of a space is pretty standard. Though there seemed to be a bit more of an exasperated tone this year. One friend told me the only way it could have been worse is if it had snowed. That’s an odd thing to hope against considering how badly we need snow. I can only surmise the traffic was indeed worse than it normally is over Christmas if locals were relieved there wasn’t a snowstorm.
All this chatter left me to contemplate our traffic problems. Despite the added emphasis on riding the bus and now paying to park near Main Street, it sure doesn’t seem like the city’s efforts have done much to reduce the number of cars on the road. Paying to park and a convenient and free bus system might help locals change their driving behavior, but they are unlikely to change the tourist mindset. And that of course is the real issue. If only locals drove, we wouldn’t have a traffic problem.
Which might be the only viable solution — some type of pass system allowing only those who live within the county to drive within the city. Farfetched perhaps, but the town did something similar during the 2002 Olympics, and to some extent, still does restrict driving over Arts Fest. We might need to start considering similar measures during the winter.
It’s a bit drastic to be sure, but far more realistic than convincing tourists to take the bus. For starters, they have to get to Park City. For a family, renting a car at the airport for a week is actually cheaper than most airport transfers. Even with on-demand car services like Uber, you’re still likely to shell out over $100 to and from the airport. That’s assuming you don’t require a vehicle that can lug your skis or need a lift at peak times.
I had a friend’s family stay at my house while I was gone. They were looking for last-minute lodging and I was away, so it worked out perfectly for both of us. Before their arrival I sent them information about the bus, told them to download the app, left them maps and explained two buses stop at the end of my street. “There’s no need to rent a car,” I tried to convince them.
When I came home, there were two rental cars in my driveway.
“With all of us coming and going at different times, and some wanting to stay out on Main Street after midnight, it was cheaper and easier to have cars here,” they told me.
They had done the math. With different arrival times and days for six adults, a shuttle service was going to cost over $600 to get everyone to Park City and back to the airport. Plus the cost of taking a taxi back to my house if they stayed out late, or someone wanted to ski Alta. The rental cars were cheaper. And you can bet they drove them all week to ski, to shop, and dine. They never saw the inside of a bus, despite me nearly insisting on the option.
The car is the star. It has been since the Ford Model T. We are addicted to the freedom of going where we want, when we want. On our schedule. Shoving a few dollars into a meter is worth the price of convenience. This is the American way. And try as we might in Park City to set a good example and offer alternatives, the millions of people visiting our town each year aren’t interested in doing things our way. We have to consider making them.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.