A preliminary version of a transit demand study for Wasatch County has been prepared under the supervision of the Mountainland Association of Governments and was introduced to the Summit County Council on Wednesday afternoon.
The study is looking at three basic elements—a transit connector from Wasatch County to Park City; development of transit within Wasatch County; and a connector from Heber to Utah County.
The initial presentation showed the total cost of a transit program could be upwards of $2 million a year, or $6.5 million over several years.
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said there are several questions that haven’t been answered yet—like whether the transit connections would be free.
“If you look through the study, it does contemplate a method of doing fare revenue on those routes,” Fisher said. “But it really is a proposal and a study that shows how it could be done. It doesn’t make any decisions. It just really provides information for decisionmakers on the future.”
He said that the stakeholders involved in the study, including Wasatch County, Heber, Summit County and Park City, will have to discuss how to pay for the service, and what governmental structure will administer the transit.
“Some of the same revenue sources that the county uses for transit could be implemented by Wasatch County,” Fisher said. “But those decisions have to be made locally within Wasatch County. And then how to then, once you have the revenue picture in place in order to do that—what is gonna be the structure that runs a transit system like that. There are certainly pilot programs that can be done under the current structures. But there’s also discussions going on between parties on a more regional government structure around transit.”
Fisher also said the study was completed before the COVID-19 crisis erupted. He said the coronavirus adds a whole new factor—namely when will most of the public feel comfortable about riding a bus again.
“And that probably goes along with the recovery of our economy,” he said. “So certainly those discussions will go into that. It also is a factor of whether the revenue sources projected within that study can still produce what was projected at that point. In Summit County, we’re certainly looking at reductions in that revenue over the next few years, because of the economic effects of the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the County Council’s agenda is still being held remotely. Fisher said that the online meetings won’t go away any time soon.
“The virtual meetings are certainly one of the ways that we’re using to keep people safe during this issue. We haven’t seen a really good way of holding live meetings at this point, where we’re constrained on space, where we might have large meetings where people want to make public comments. And so the electronic meetings, I think, are here to stay for the foreseeable future.”