Our new transit center: Don’t sell the car just yet
More Dogs on Main
Park Record columnist
The County was proud to open their new Kimball Junction Transit Center. It’s at the worst intersection in the county, which somehow made it a logical place to add bus traffic.
Since it is extremely unlikely most of you will ever see the inside of the place, I decided to take one for the team and investigate it. As a public service to readers of this fine paper, I made a trip to the transit center. Of course, I drove there. In my car. Alone. There was a parking place right out front.
It is very nice. There are about 20 parking spaces, so it’s clearly not intended as a park-and-ride location. It’s basically a large waiting room furnished with vintage-train-station- style benches.
The room has barn wood paneling, nice lighting and a comfortable feel to it. There is an old piano in the corner that could make waiting for a bus either very pleasant or completely excruciating depending on who is playing it. There are nice restrooms and shelters outside for six buses.
I was there for about 10 minutes. Two friendly county maintenance employees were leaving as I arrived. Otherwise, it was deserted. A couple of buses came in and stopped at their designated platforms. Nobody got on or off. A big sign in an emphatic font said, “The maximum occupancy of the building is 250 people.” We should be safe on that, perhaps even on an annual basis.
I know the officials who planned this. They are visionaries who can see things that the rest of us cannot. They earnestly explain that this facility will allow shorter routes to gather people up from various Kimball Junction neighborhoods, and drop them at the transit center where they can wait, in piano-filled comfort, to transfer to buses that will take them into Park City, where they can wait to transfer to other buses. The Salt Lake commuter bus will pick up and drop off passengers at the transit center, shortening the time the round trip to Salt Lake takes. That allows for more frequent trips, except that passengers are stuck at the transit center until they transfer to another bus to get the rest of the way to their destination. There were cars in the lot suggesting people were using it.
It’s a little disturbing system planners anticipate transfer times that are so long that a cozy, heated, $2.5 million waiting room is necessary. That doesn’t just shout efficiency. At least they didn’t provide for food service. If getting from Jeremy Ranch to PCMR requires a lunch stop, we have a problem.
I live in a location that is bus proof. If I draw a circle around my house, with a radius of a mile, there aren’t enough people to fill a Suburban. Literally, if every man, woman, child, dog, goat and chicken in that area all went to the corner at the same time, nobody would notice. The population density in other areas is a little greater, but not exactly Manhattan. So if the goal is to get us to quit driving single occupant cars into town, I don’t see how the new, parking-less transit center helps.
It is impossible to get from my house to the ski resort on the bus. It’s not easy in the car, when 248 clogs up every day. There is no central place we can drive to, park our cars, and then bunch up on the bus for the last couple of congested miles. The city maintains a huge parking lot out on the tailings pond. They plow the snow and burn the lights all night. It’s in a location that could easily draw traffic from the Kamas area off 248. With a little work, traffic from Heber could exit US-40 directly into the parking lot. But if all of us commuting in from the hinterlands decided to do the right thing, and park in that satellite parking lot, we would be eaten by coyotes before a bus came to get us. The bus doesn’t run to the satellite parking lot. I’m not saying I would use it if it did, but it doesn’t.
Officials tell me this is a work in progress, and that I need to be patient. It’s like dumping the bag of IKEA hardware out on the floor and trying to visualize it turning into a roll-top desk. Not all of the parts are unpacked yet. Some aren’t even shipped. Give it time, they say, and we will see a marvelous, efficient, new system that will revolutionize the way we travel. I hear it. I see parts. But try as I might, I just can’t see how it will work. If it takes three times as long as driving, people are never going to ride the bus.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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