Tom Clyde: Paid parking plans
They finally said it out loud. PEG Companies, the developer of the Park City Resort Parking lots, acknowledged that they will charge for parking at the resort if and when their project is built. The stated reason was to reduce traffic and encourage carpooling and transit. Worthy goals. It’s also realistic to try to recoup some of the costs associated with parking structures.
Parking garages are hideously expensive. A contractor friend pointed out that the primary difference between a parking garage and a hotel meeting room is carpet. Otherwise, the costs of ventilation, elevators, lighting, fire sprinklers and pretty much everything else is all there. They aren’t cheap to operate.
In a normal situation, the ski resort would own and operate its own parking. It would make the decision internally about how much of the cost to absorb in the price of the lift ticket, and how much to charge ala carte. So far, there are no pay toilets at PCMR. The significant cost of building and maintaining the bathrooms is buried in the lift ticket. After last winter’s experience with those disgusting trailers, everybody appears to have resorted to “tree skiing,” so a pay-toilet system would not have generated much income.
On the other side, lunch is not included in the lift ticket. If you want to eat, you can buy what you want and pay for it in addition to the lift access. For all of Park City Mountain Resort’s nearly 60 years, parking has been treated like the bathrooms. When they convert to multi-level parking structures, owned by a third party, it will be treated like lunch. I don’t like it, but understand it. It is inevitable. Just one more case where growth is grinding away at the quality of life.
I’m personally the source of the problem, too. I meet up with a group of friends to ski. We all come from different directions. Trying to gather up for a carpool would have everybody driving several miles out of the way. Assembling the carpool actually generates more traffic, just in different neighborhoods. Instead, we all arrive in the American way, one to a car, and expect there to be a free, open parking spot waiting for us.
Not anymore. If the PEG plan goes forward (and with construction prices going completely nuts, the project seems more difficult than ever), there will be lovely parking structures staffed with employees who drive their cars from Salt Lake to collect the fee. I wonder where they will park. The option of fewer skiers is not under discussion. The Epic Pass price reduction is aimed at increasing skier numbers, largely driving from Salt Lake in this market. The developer says they want to encourage the use of shuttles that don’t exist.
That can’t be the end of the discussion. That is the beginning. PEG, as the developer, isn’t in the transit or shuttle business. They don’t have an off-site location for a remote parking lot. But before the city approves the development, that needs to be solved. The idea of using a shuttle service is not appealing. As much as I ski, parking fees of $20 a day would really add up. Using a free remote lot shuttle is at least conceptually possible. But it’s all conceptual. Parking at the ski areas has been a problem for several years now, and the city can’t move beyond the conceptual stage. Ultimately, something, somewhere, has to get paved. It will be ugly and nobody wants it in their neighborhood.
Where will the remote lot be? Who is going to pay for it? Who pays for the shuttle vehicles and the employees to drive them? How often do they run? How long do I have to wait in the theoretical remote parking lot with thousands of other skiers arriving at the same time to get a shuttle to the base of the resort? Show me how it works. Pour some concrete. Do something.
Before the plague, the bus system was a viable option within town. Whether riders will come back or not remains to be seen. The bus will always be slower than driving your own car because it stops frequently and takes a circuitous route to pick others up. The farther you get from the heart of town, the less viable it is. It doesn’t work from Salt Lake, Heber or Kamas. We are still dependent on private cars, and that isn’t going to change.
The discussion needs to focus on how the new parking/shuttle system will work. It’s a discussion that goes beyond the property lines of the parking lot property and the PEG application. It should involve the resort management, the city and the county with its new, redundant bus system. Deer Valley Resort is a year or so away from facing the same issue with its parking lot development plans. Maybe there is one remote parking lot and one shuttle system that is jointly operated and funded. Without a comprehensive solution, and actual pavement and real shuttle vehicles, charging for parking at the resort just pushes the resort’s problem on to somebody else. We can’t all park at Fresh Market.
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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