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Transit Board Votes For Numerous Service Changes and Reductions For This Winter

KPCW Radio

In their latest meeting Tuesday, the Joint Transportation Advisory Board for Park City and Summit County voted for a roster of bus service changes and reductions for this winter.


But in one case, due to public input, transit planners reversed course and kept bus service in one Snyderville neighborhood.


The transit staff reported the bus changes for the winter of 2020-21 were proposed to address the reduced ridership caused by COVID-19. They said they were trying to save nearly $2 million to make up for a $5.4 million shortfall in tax revenue.


The plan, though, is considered temporary, just applying to this winter.


The changes were presented to JTAB in August. Between then and early September, a survey was posted on the Transit website, to get the opinions of patrons, local business and the resorts.


Just about all the routes have seen reductions in frequency or reductions in hours.


Among the changes, the Red route won’t be going out from the Prospector area to Quinn’s. An on-demand service will be set up. Transit staffer Scott Burningham said they saw less than 25 riders a day on the Quinn’s bus.


Burningham said that the suspension of the Main Street Trolley brought some comments.


“People did mention that the Trolley makes it easier and more accessible for those that are elderly and have disabilities,” Burningham said. “Of course, we do sympathize with that. But we do feel like there are ways to access Main Street, and that this cost savings is significant enough that we want to just temporarily suspend the Trolley.”


He said by far the most survey comments—over 250—reacted to the proposal to eliminate service to Silver Springs on the Pink line. Virtually all those commenting wanted to keep the service, saying it was needed for their work or recreation. 


Burningham said they saw 75 to 100 riders a day in that area—though that was a winter peak and ridership certainly fell off in the summer.


Among other items, while frequency was cut back on the Yellow line, it was extended to Park City Mountain Resort. In similar fashion, the Lime was extended to Deer Valley Resort.


One resident calling in to the meeting asked how operators will react if buses get crowded this winter, creating problems for social distancing.


Park City Transit Manager Kim Fjeldsted said they will add buses if they can, but they’re still facing financial constraints.


“The bus drivers will just limit the amount of people that the bus can take, as they would have any other time,” Fjeldsted said. “We do not have the six-foot social distancing requirement because of the mask usage. So it is possible that you could have crowded buses and people would have to make the choice of whether or not they want to ride that bus. Our app also does show the amount of people on a bus so people can plan ahead and look at that information when making their decisions.”


Park City Council Member Steve Joyce said he may be wrong, but he thinks crowds on buses will be unlikely.


“I mean, right now, month to month, we’re anywhere from 70 to 80 percent down off of our year-to-year,” he said. “And I guess it’s—who knows what it’s gonna look like when we get into the winter. But at least so far, I personally, my little crystal ball says a lot of the issues that we have had with overcrowding on bus lines simply isn’t gonna happen this year. I can see us maybe going from, I guess, August with 77 percent down, year to year. I can see us maybe getting to 50 percent down, year to year. But I don’t see us being anywhere close to what our normal years are.”


City Council Member Tim Henney reacted this way to the question—what if passengers return to buses?


“That corresponding “what if’ would probably be indicative of more visitation, more tourism, and thus more revenue than we are projecting, which would allow us to add some revenue into our adjustments,” he said. “And I think, as Kim just said, we have the ability, because we’re gonna have idle rolling stock, and we’re probably gonna have bus drivers who would be able to take on additional hours and routes, we are going to be more nimble on adding than we would possibly be in reducing.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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