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As winter approaches, Richardson Flat seen as short-term parking answer

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Google Earth
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The Richardson Flat park and ride off Richardson Flat Road.

At the joint Park City Council-Summit County Council meeting last week, there was no consensus for how to combat day visitor traffic congestion during winter.

What are Park City streets - and resort parking lots - going to look like this winter? If there’s consensus on anything, it’s that the coming season holds more than a few unknowns.

With Park City Mountain charging for parking for the first time, city and council officials anticipate that some people are going to change their behavior, and might park in places that no one has ever thought of before.

At the joint Park City Council-Summit County Council meeting last week, there was no consensus for how to combat day visitor traffic congestion during winter.

The city council is holding a work session on winter transportation at its meeting Thursday. The council essentially has three options for this winter: establish a park-and-ride at Richardson Flat, run more buses on existing routes, or continue the same level of service as last winter and see what happens. Each has varying prices, with the Richardson Flat service the highest at $1.8 million.

A fourth option was considered and rejected in May. The city council voted down a new 465-spot park and ride at Quinn’s Junction, partly because several council members felt it would worsen traffic congestion at the intersection where SR-248, US-40, and Old Highway 40 all meet.

Officials have divided opinions about all those options, and emphasized that each would only be a short-term fix anyway. They say what’s needed is a long-term solution.

Park City Councilmember Max Doilney, who owns and operates the Corner Store at the base of Park City Mountain, supported the Quinn’s Junction project, and has been vocal about the problems Richardson Flat may present.

“We are trying to work together and we don’t agree on our opinion of what is or what isn’t right," Doilney said.

"I personally don't want to park at Richardson Flat, and I feel like if I were going on a ski vacation, I probably wouldn’t want to go back and have that experience twice. I’ve done a little on the ground research with my employees at the Corner Store, and frankly if I force them to park out there, they will be looking for other jobs, they are not interested.”

The Quinn’s Junction project is not off the table until the city council officially rejects it in a vote. However, Doilney said he doesn’t anticipate city staff will spend any time on it.

He said the city remains vigilant and ready to pivot as the season rolls out.

The changes to parking won’t just affect day trippers from the valley. Park City Ski and Snowboard Executive Director Christie Hind said paid parking is forcing the club, which trains at the resort, to make changes.

“We will be impacted, but we’re trying to think creatively," Hind said.

"Whether we’ll leverage our own fleet and have meeting places in town to bring coaches in, but we’ll be working with and we’re meeting with Park City Mountain in real time on that. It’s going to be a joint effort to make sure that they get their employees, we’ll be having to get employees there. And then we’re going to be encouraging our members to carpool.”

Reservations for the Main, First Time, and Silver King parking lots will be required between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. when Park City Mountain opens for the season. The resort will begin charging $25 for a spot starting Dec. 12.

Vehicles with four or more passengers will still need a reservation, but parking will be free.

Parker Malatesta covers Park City for KPCW. Before coming to NPR, he spent one year as a general assignment reporter for TownLift in Park City. He previously was the news editor at The News Record, the student paper at the University of Cincinnati. He loves running, reading, and urban planning.