Record editorial: Despite problems, calls to pull plug on drop-and-load zones are premature
A certain level of mayhem on Main Street is expected this time of year as thousands of visitors descend on the area to take in our town’s hospitality and historical charm.
This winter, though, has been particularly turbulent after City Hall established several permit-only drop-and-load zones in the Main Street core primarily for professional drivers to pick up and drop off passengers.
The program’s aim of reducing congestion and increasing safety for pedestrians and vehicles is important.
But for many, the change has been a difficult one: Since the zones were implemented last month, the Park City Police Department has dealt with dozens of violations, several of which resulted in vehicles being towed. The program has encountered no shortage of critics, from drivers frustrated at paying $200 for the permits, to Uber and Lyft complaining that the zones are “punitive” and “counterproductive,” to a rideshare driver at a City Council meeting last week comparing the scene on Main Street to “Die Hard.”
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At the same time, many who frequent Main Street during the winter would readily agree that the level of disorder stemming, in part, from hordes of drivers trying to get people to their destinations then pick up the next customer had become problematic enough in recent years to warrant action.
For that reason, calls for the city to pull the plug on the drop-and-load zones, operating this winter on a pilot basis, are premature. Contrary to what the critics suggest, City Hall officials say the program has been a success, pointing to feedback from a homeowners association that the time of a round-trip drive to Main Street has been reduced.
And even someone with an optimistic outlook would have expected such a significant change to result in problems at the outset. The number of violations the police logged seemed to decrease last week, perhaps indicating that drivers are at last acclimating to the change.
But given the sheer volume of violations so far and the amount of frustration surrounding the zones, City Hall needs to take a serious look at whether they are worth continuing once the pilot period is over. And officials will need to base a decision on hard data, rather than the anecdotal evidence they’ve offered so far in defense of the program.
If they can demonstrate that the zones are effective, it’s worth weathering the complaints of those who dislike them for the benefit of everyone else.
If they can’t, they ought to go back to the drawing board and look for another solution, one that would be less tumultuous for the people it most affects.
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Our view: Against a once-unimaginable backdrop, and with little margin for error, county officials have made painful but prudent decisions in an attempt to spare us from the worst of the pandemic.