Guest editorial: Widening S.R. 248 would simply invite more vehicle traffic
A recent proposal by UDOT to turn S.R. 248 into a five-lane road will not solve our traffic “problems” but rather make them worse. Building more roads and adding more capacity for automobiles and automobiles alone only compounds traffic problems.
Just look at traffic-clogged Los Angeles. After $1 billion was spent to widen 10 miles of the 405 freeway there, travel times are worse than before the project started. This phenomenon, known as induced demand, acts as a feedback cycle: More and more people use the expanded roads, eventually overwhelming the increased capacity. If Parkites and the state are really interested in taking measurable steps to reduce congestion in and around Park City, we should be focused on offering commuters alternate ways to get around by greatly expanding public transit, giving buses dedicated lanes and/or signal priority, and if we really want to get down to it, banning private automobiles on Main Street and pedestrianizing the experience.
Main Street can survive without cars. Recently, I attended two separate events on a car-free Main Street: Savor the Summit and Park Silly. The success of those events proves that Main Street can survive without private automobiles. Main Street already dedicates much of its infrastructure to the public storage of private property (curbside parking) and pedestrians are relegated to relatively narrow sidewalks. Places should be built for people — not cars — and if we want to reduce traffic congestion and make Park City a more livable place, we should start with removing parking. Plenty of other cities have done it … even New York City has pedestrianized Times Square! Pedestrianizing Main Street would attract people and encourage them to stroll up and down the street, lingering longer as they don’t have to worry about getting run over by a 2-ton metal box that spews pollution as it passes by. Restaurants would be able to expand outdoor seating and would create a leisurely atmosphere for diners who might want to eat outside but don’t want to breathe tailpipe emissions while doing so.
The city has already taken commendable steps towards reducing traffic downtown by pricing parking to more accurately reflect market conditions. I think the city could raise the price of parking more, as studies have shown that the demand for priced parking is inelastic. The cost should be high for those wishing to drive private automobiles into the center of town. But the thing that will really get us out of our cars and relieve congestion is frequent, reliable and fast public transit. The Electric Express is a good start but there are still improvements that can be made in the form of signal priority for buses and dedicated transit lanes. We should also expand service to Quinn’s Junction with the same speed and frequency. Imagine how much faster traffic would flow if we could get 50+ people on a 40-foot bus vs. 50+ people in separate 8-foot-long, single-occupant vehicles. These transit improvements will increase the quality of life in Park City and at a much lower cost than building new roads. We need to look away from 20th-century traffic engineering and look for 21st-century solutions.
Adding additional road capacity does not work. Just ask the residents of Los Angeles. Or Houston. Or Atlanta. Park City should look to the cities and towns that have prioritized people not cars. Let’s free ourselves from the tyranny of our auto-centric lives and look to a future where mobility is guaranteed by choice, not slavish devotion to the car.
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It’s Sunday morning, and I am a bit sore but, once again, smiling having completed another Triple Trail Challenge capstone race yesterday, the Mid Mountain Marathon. With all of the other wonderful summer activities here in Park City, it’s easy to overlook the effort of over 300 runners, and more importantly, how integral the Mountain Trails Foundation is to the essence of Park City.