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Park City Considers Swapping Gates In China Bridge For Meters

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KPCW Radio
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Broken gates, denied parking validations, visitors not realizing they can park for free until 5 p.m.—Park City’s China Bridge parking garage has a few struggles in the way of its success. Park City Municipal may soon pursue a different option for getting people in and out of the Old Town garage safely and efficiently.

Park City Parking Manager Johnny Wasden says many people struggle with parking in China Bridge. It starts with ease of use.

"China Bridge is kind of a tricky being that basically has a lot of little intricate corners and access points off of narrow roadways—Marsac being one of those—where there's just a lot of travel, but getting in and out with the current technology is difficult," Wasden said.

Although it’s more affordable than parking on Main Street, Wasden says more people consistently utilize on-street parking than China Bridge, with the parking garage only full during peak events. Wasden believes most people are comfortable with the metered parking on Main Street and at the surface lots in Old Town, like Bob Wells Plaza and the Flag Pole lot, but China Bridge’s gates act as a bit of a deterrent.

"People see those meters, and they're just like, I know how to deal with this," Wasden said. "When they see the gate arms, they pull up and they're like, now it's a commitment. I think it's just important to be aware of some of those challenges on the ground and put yourself in the user's shoes."

Wasden says gate systems can be effective in an area with high-cost parking and high turnover, like a shopping mall, but with free parking for most of the day at China Bridge, it doesn’t make much sense.

China Bridge also has a vandalism problem. Wasden says he receives calls about incidents where people drove through the gate or manually raised it, damaging the gate arms and its mechanical system. It results in operational challenges, extra administrative work and a loss of parking revenue, and Wasden says the vandalism happens once a month to three times a week, depending on the season.

“So we see winter, as we get closer to ski season, people are putting racks on their cars, driving in, catching a gate and basically rendering it out of service," Wasden said. "A lot of times it's not their fault, but then you have the folks at 3 o'clock in the morning that we watch them on camera, hop out of the passenger seat and lift the gate arm, and it's like, man.”

But Wasden says there’s a solution. He’s leaning toward replacing the gate system with meters, like the surface lots and Main Street. Wasden says there are myriad benefits to that. Parking staff already monitors license plates on Main Street, so adding China Bridge to the patrol would be simple. It will also help with data collection, to better understand where visitors and employees are parking in Old Town. And it reduces traffic congestion, by preventing backup at the gates.

Perhaps the biggest benefit, though, is cost. Wasden says the city spent $1.1 million to install the gates and related equipment in China Bridge. To replace it all with meters would cost $37,000. There’s also operational savings. Wasden says the city spends $110,000 per year to repair and maintain the current system in China Bridge. Plus, Park City pays $120,000 for support services. With an additional nine meters installed in China Bridge, all 56 meters throughout Old Town would cost about $50,000 to operate.

"They’re really quite cost-effective," Wasden said. "We have 47 units on Main Street right now, and they just function properly. They don't take a lot to manage, and they also are just easier to use, so it's kind of a no-brainer at this point."

Wasden says the meter system in China Bridge could be implemented in Spring 2020, after the peak winter season.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.
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