The Park City City Council will be presented with a preliminary study on the feasibility of a potential future gondola network running through the city this week. At an estimated price tag of over $64 million, city officials say it’s possible, but would take years to implement.
One of the central pillars identified in Park City’s Vision 2020 initiative is transportation innovation. In January, the city contracted Snow Engineering Group to conduct a preliminary feasibility study to explore the possibility of connecting four major Park City locations using a system of gondolas.
City Manager Matt Dias tells KPCW they have heard a desire from the community for several years now to reduce the number of cars on the street. He says this study presents the city council with one potential way to help solve that problem.
“For a long time we’ve been hearing whispers in the community about a solution that would potentially make town more car-optional,” Dias says. “This is a very initial feasibility study, very quick study of potential alignment to connect nodal centers of activity in our community that would need to be integrated with other aspects of public transportation.”
The study identified the Old Town Transportation Center, the Deer Valley Snow Park base area, the base of Park City Mountain Resort, and the yet-to-be-built Arts and Culture District at the corner of Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive as sites for potential future gondola stations.
The study cost the city roughly $20,000 and is intended to be an abstract look at future transportation options in Park City. Dias says city council would have to give approval before city staff could look into the project further.
“We are adding to the conversation a bold alternative that might be considered someday in the future about ways to connect areas of economic activity and vibrancy and lodging in a way that can make this town more accessible to someone not using a car,” says Dias. “This is a very conceptual study, an initial pass at what that might look like, what the alignments might entail. And as you might expect, by and large, it returned more or less what we know: it is feasible, but it would be very expensive, very complex, probably take years to implement, and we would require more resources.”
The study put potential future costs of the project at just over $64 million, with an additional $3.5 million required in annual operations and maintenance costs.
The study points to the successful use of gondolas in other resort locations like Telluride and Breckenridge, Colorado, as well as numerous resorts in Europe where taking the gondola from one hub to another is faster than driving.
With the city already slated to spend $70 million on the future Arts and Culture District, the practicality of taking on another ambitious and expensive project comes into question -- especially given that the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to take years.
The Old Town Transportation Center and the Arts and Culture District would likely need additional parking and more integration with existing transportation systems to justify a gondola station.
Dias says this would have to be the case for any future aerial transportation network in Park City, especially given the number of visitors coming in from Quinn’s Junction and Kimball Junction each day.
“If, someday in the future, we had some type of an aerial system in Park City, it would absolutely have to be integrated with an overall system,” he says. “Whether that’s a bus rapid transit coming in from 224, whether that’s park and rides out on 248, that would absolutely have to be integrated. The intent here isn’t to get anyone’s blood pressure up, the intent here is to come in and just talk at a very, very high level, very cursory level in terms of an initial feasibility, initial concept of what something like this might entail, how much work it would entail and what sort of utilization or efficacy it might have.”
City council will be discussing the aerial transportation feasibility study at their meeting on Thursday. The virtual meeting starts at 5pm and links to the agenda and aerial study staff report can be found here.