The Heber City Council reviewed the findings of a study that was conducted to explore the expansion of public transit options in Wasatch County and has determined that although there is a need for that service, now is not the time.
The proposed public transit expansion would include improved local service in Heber and Midway, daily Heber to Park City bus routes, Heber to Utah County commuter lines, as well as vanpool services based on demand.
If Wasatch County were to implement all of the proposed transportation expansions, yearly costs are estimated to be in the neighborhood of $1.5 million and would serve an estimated 250,000 riders annually, according to the study.
Despite a need for more public transit options in the Heber Valley that has only grown in recent years, Heber City Council ultimately decided to hold off on implementing any new transportation projects until life returns to a more pre-COVID-19 level of normalcy.
Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter says even though it’s a “no” for now, the council is still interested in tackling the issue in the future.
“The takeaway was, A: Right now is not a good time,” Potter said. “Because of COVID, a lot more people are working from home, people who might normally ride a bus probably wouldn’t right now because of the proximity and the difficulty of making sure they are safe. The first step would likely be a pilot project between Heber City and Park City and the council is interested in looking at that when the time is right.”
A pilot project would establish two morning and evening routes and one midday from Heber to Park City in order to gauge rider numbers and determine if a more permanent service is warranted. Park City would supply the buses and drivers and Heber would kick in about $200,000 to cover operation and maintenance costs.
The study says funding for the full project could come from a number of sources, including Federal Transit Administration grants and fares paid by riders. Heber also has the option to implement a number of quarter-cent taxes on things like sales, mass transit, highways, and food to be used to cover the costs of implementing a new transit program.
The study estimates potential annual revenue from one of these quarter-cent taxes to be about $2.2 million. If Heber were to activate all of these taxes, annual revenue would rise to about $11 million.
Shawn Seager is the director of planning for the Mountainland Association of Governments and explained these quarter-cent taxes can be put in place administratively by both city and county councils. He says as of right now, Wasatch County has yet to implement any of them county-wide but that both Heber and Midway have elements of the taxes in place.
“That’s .30 of one percent of sales tax on any item that’s purchased within Heber City or Midway City. Summit County, they’ve implemented all five quarter-cent sales taxes,” Seager said. “Many of those quarters can be implemented administratively by the county council themselves and even your city councils can do some of those quarters.”
No official decision was made at Tuesday’s council meeting to determine the timetable for an expansion of transportation services in Wasatch County or a pilot program between Heber and Park City.