Traffic has receded but transit and housing issues are still at the forefront
Summit County residents heaved a collective sigh of relief as they drove around town on Monday. With both ski areas closed for a brief respite before cranking up summer operations, traffic was light and parking was a cinch. Tuesday, memories of midwinter traffic jams were already melting away and dire predictions about gridlock seemed overblown.
But residents are keenly aware that a crowd-free town would be a disaster for local businesses. As much as we dread congestion, our economy is dependent on staying busy.
The challenge is how to accommodate growing numbers of visitors — along with all of the employees needed to house and feed and entertain them — while moving everyone around safely and efficiently. Even though the pressure is off for a month or so, it is important for the city and county to maintain their efforts to come up with innovative transportation solutions.
One of the biggest contributing factors to our transportation overload is that job growth continues to outpace affordable housing, forcing employers to look outside of the county for workers.
According to data collected by the county, more than half of those working in Summit County live elsewhere, and that gap grows every year. In 2014, 13,333 of the 22,276 people working within Summit County, lived out of the area. Only 8, 942 local workers were lucky enough to find housing close to their place of employment. And in 2015, 600 more jobs were added to the local workforce. That growing inflow of workers accounts for a significant part of the daily traffic backups on Park City’s entry corridors.
The city and the county are working on some promising traffic mitigation plans like expanding public transit and building satellite parking lots. But unless those plans go hand in hand with more workforce housing, Summit County business owners will be forced to rely on out-of-town employees.
County council member Kim Carson is correct in saying that transportation issues are inextricably linked to community planning. The city and the county are making some strides in the right direction but they will need community support to turn those concepts into concrete policies and facilities.
Even though the road is clear, the off-season is a good time to pick up the pace and participate in the upcoming discussions. The Summit County Council is scheduled to talk about transportation issues with Park City during its regularly scheduled meeting today at 4 p.m. Additional discussions including whether to put a Mass Transit Sales Tax or a County Option Transit Sales Tax on November’s ballot, will continue throughout the spring and summer.
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