Heber Valley bus, microtransit service may expand due to high demand
Public transit in Wasatch County has grown quickly in popularity since it started last November. Now, the agency that runs it and local government are interested in providing more options.
In almost three months, riders stepped onto the Heber City and Park City bus or rode on-demand microtransit shuttles in the Heber Valley more than 20,000 times.
In a presentation to the Wasatch County Council Wednesday, High Valley Transit Executive Director Caroline Rodriguez said that came out to about 17 bus riders and four microtransit passengers an hour last month. She also said there’s a demand for more, which could take the form of more buses passing through more frequently or later hours.
As for how to fund that, County Manager Dustin Grabau said one of the county’s best options is a new sales tax of a quarter of a percent, or 25 cents for every $100 spent. To be eligible to do that, the county would have to join High Valley’s service district, a bigger commitment than the contracted relationship the county has with the agency now.
Council members such as Mark Nelson said they were impressed with the bus and shuttles so far and wanted to see the service continue.
“I think it’s inevitable that we need to opt into High Valley Transit,” Nelson said. “I think it’s a no-brainer, but we do need the data to support it, and I think it’s obvious that’s where it’s headed, and it’s providing an important service for a segment of our population that really needs it.”
Councilman Kendall Crittenden had even bigger ideas.
He said, “I think as we consider expansion, we need to take a serious look at whether we want to make a connection into the Utah Valley. Whether it’s maybe a short period of time in the morning and in the evening, afternoon or whatever, but if that could accommodate our teachers, we have a good number of teachers coming up from the valley that might take advantage if we expanded that way.”
All of the discussion Wednesday was preliminary. The council didn’t make any decisions, but directed staff to research options and bring the topic back up in future meetings.
Crittenden also said there’s a growing need for a park-and-ride. That’s partly because people have been using the Smith’s grocery store parking lot to get on buses.
Rodriguez said drivers remind riders they shouldn’t use a private business’s parking lot for long-hours parking to take the bus.
Council members said next steps should include an open house and public input process before the council decides whether to annex into High Valley’s district or levying a new tax.
Rodriguez said she would continue to provide monthly updates to the council about how many people are riding the bus and microtransit.