The Connecting Wasatch transit study in Wasatch County has been seeking public input, as well as collecting and analyzing data about possible ways to address transit needs in the county.
The transit study is a cooperative effort between Heber City, Park City, Midway, Wasatch County, MAG, UDOT and UTA. The study began early summer of 2019 and has included collection of data, public surveys and an initial report. Last month LSC Transportation Consultants published an interim report evaluating service options. AT Stoddard, a consultant on the project explains they analyzed a few different transit options. Including a commuter service between Heber and Park City as well as Heber and Kimball Junction. A winter skier service bus connecting the Heber Valley to Park City resorts, a Utah county commuter service. As well as a local service connecting multiple locations in Midway and Heber. Stoddard says their analysis and survey results have pointed them towards two particular routes.
“From what we’re hearing and have heard is the highest being that connection between Wasatch County and the Park City area,” Stoddard said. “Followed pretty closely and probably not a lot of difference is the local service within Wasatch County.”
As part of the report the consultants analyzed the efficiency of routes measured by the estimated annual operating costs to run the system divided by the projected annual ridership. The most efficient route in the report is the Park City Commuter service with an estimated cost per passenger coming just under three dollars. Alternatively, a local service within Wasatch County could cost somewhere between nine and 14 dollars per passenger. Stoddard says efficiency number do not always equate to what bus fare would be for the trip.
“Virtually always these kinds of services are subsidized,” Stoddard explained. “The commuter service is probably the one that is most likely to be covered by fares or have the highest percentage in terms of fares covering that. Some of the others like local service in smaller communities—fares cover a much lower percentage of the actual costs.”
Commuter buses into Utah County and out to Kimball Junction cost anywhere from 30 to nearly 70 dollars per passenger. Those higher costs are due to a lower number of people making those commutes and higher operating costs.
The Heber to Park City commuter route would likely end at the Main Street Transit Center, allowing for easy transfers. Finding a point to leave from Heber is a bit more challenging, Stoddard says they’re looking at a few different places he notes a likely place is near the Wal Mart at the south end of town.
Park City Transits system is free to anyone who hops on a bus in the area, the same goes for the Cache Valley Transit in the Logan, Utah area. Stoddard says a free system is something they would consider.
Funding for operating costs could come in the form of a Wasatch County sales tax, Stoddard notes there are other options.
“There are federal grants to buy vehicles to make improvements,” Stoddard continued. “There is a federal transit program that Park City currently receives that is specifically to fund operations for rural transit systems. So that would be a possibility. There are a variety of other sources of funding, but the discussion is going to have to start soon in terms of what that local funding source might be. It could be sales tax, it could be something else, but that definitely is going to have to be part of the conversation to move forward.”
Stoddard says they haven’t yet presented official recommendations to the committee but that will come in the near future. He also says that buying full size buses could take several years as it requires local funding and other funding sources in place as well the fact that purchasing buses can take some time as they are often manufactured to order.
All of the participating entities have financially invested into the Wasatch Transit Study. Park City Council member Steve Joyce says the project is a large opportunity to improve transit and the impact on Park City traffic.
“If we could take that just huge flow of workforce people coming from the Heber/Midway Valley and get some number of them either through park n rides or whatever but get them on the bus—that’d be great,” Joyce said.
The Connecting Wasatch study is seeking more public input in the form of a questionnaire. You can find that survey and the published reports online at ConnectingWasatch.info