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City council supports continuing bus route from Richardson Flat, Park City Heights

The 6 Silver bus runs from the Richardson Flat park and ride to the Old Town Transit Center.
Parker Malatesta
The 6 Silver bus runs from the Richardson Flat park and ride to the Old Town Transit Center.

At its meeting Thursday the Park City Council voiced support for continuing a bus route serving the Richardson Flat park and ride and the Park City Heights neighborhood.

The route was launched as a pilot in December, in an effort to keep cars out of Park City. It was set to expire in April, but the city council’s direction Thursday will extend it into the summer.

The city’s transportation department will propose a spring schedule after analyzing what works best outside of ski season. The estimated cost to continue the current service time through November is roughly $650,000.

City councilman Jeremy Rubell said he’d like to see the Richardson Flat service become a permanent fixture.

“We see signs of it working,” Rubell said. “People are giving us positive feedback, use is increasing. Now is not the time to pull it back. Now is the time to continue the good work that’s been implemented here.”

The department proposed running a shortened route in summer, because it anticipated use slowing after ski season. Councilman Ryan Dickey recommended starting with a smaller schedule, then ramping up if demand is there.

Transit manager Kim Fjeldsted said bus data is hard to come by, given that Park City Transit is a free service and there are no rider receipts.

She said Thursday that staffing is still difficult for the department.

“We have had to cut trips of the [10] White pretty much everyday because we don’t have enough staff," Fjeldsted said.

"We’ve got supervisors out there driving, system managers, everybody we can get.”

Fjeldsted said housing is a big recruitment tool. She said the city has nearly 40 housing units for transit staff, but only two are currently available, and they’re set to be filled shortly.

“A lot of our staff is seasonal, which is great, but they do leave. They have no intention of ever becoming full-time. They have a summer gig that they go to.”

The council also briefly discussed micro transit use in the city. The service, which operates like free Uber or Lyft, currently serves only small segments of Park City — Royal Street in Deer Valley, Thaynes Canyon, and upper Park Meadows.

The city is partnering with Summit County’s transportation arm High Valley Transit in the pilot program. High Valley Transit Executive Caroline Rodriquez told the council that micro transit needs to be expanded to the entirety of city limits.

“There are people that want to use the micro service that are outside of the current Park City micro zones," Rodriquez said. "People are getting the message, they try to use the service, and then they find out that they’re actually not in any micro zone”

Recently, micro has served around 300 riders per week. She said by expanding it to full city limits, that number could double, and would match the ridership in Summit and Wasatch counties.

Rodriquez added that based on what they’ve seen in Summit County, micro transit increases fixed-route bus ridership. She said pushing people away from using the bus was a concern for Park City’s staff, which is why they crafted smaller zones.

There is more micro ridership on Royal Street compared to bus ridership last year when the city launched a route just for the winter. But Rodriquez questioned usage in other zones.

“Upper Park Meadows — no... That’s not going to drive ridership, because inherently most of those folks are not willing to do it," she said.

"You can only market so much, at some point, it’s still public transit... there’s always going to be people in Range Rovers who are always going to want to drive their Range Rover.”

Programming changes to allow for a city-wide service would take around a month, Rodriquez said.

For now, the service will remain status quo.

The city council plans to dive deep into transportation at its retreat in early March, where a decision could be made to expand the service for the duration of the pilot program.

Micro transit operates from 6:30 a.m. to midnight. People can download the High Valley Transit app on iPhone and Android to use the service if they’re in the proper zones.

Visit parkcitytransit.org for bus routes and schedules.