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Summit County public transit approves emergency buses to Salt Lake City

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Lisa Baird
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The UTA PC-SLC Connect 902 bus route is set to change December 11. Starting that day, High Valley Transit plans to provide a new route to service the stops the 902's current stops.

Summit County’s bus provider will take over the bus route to Salt Lake City that the Utah Transit Authority is reducing due to a driver shortage.

Commuters and other users of the bus route between Park City and Salt Lake City will not need to change their rides through Parleys Canyon when the Utah Transit Authority's changes take effect.

They’ll just be on 28-passenger motor coaches commissioned by High Valley Transit, rather than the UTA PC-SLC Connect 902 commuter bus. As a bonus, the new bus will be free.

Thursday afternoon, High Valley’s board of trustees approved a one-year contract with Snow Country Limo. If UTA signs off to allow High Valley buses in its area, the third-party driver service will begin transporting passengers between Kimball Junction and the University of Utah on December 11. That's the day UTA will change its PC-SLC Connect route.

Board members said when the contract expires, High Valley will seek to take over the route with its own buses.

The routes will pick up and drop off at all of the UTA 902’s current stops weekday mornings and evenings. Exact times aren’t official yet, but High Valley Executive Director Caroline Rodriguez said buses will make three morning and three evening trips during peak hours.

She called it an emergency measure based in part on popular demand.

“Of every attempt to generate public input, this is by far the most we’ve ever received on any topic,” Rodriguez said.

At the meeting, University of Utah scientist Lisa Baird identified herself as a Park City resident and longtime rider of the 902. She said on behalf of regular commuters from Park City to downtown Salt Lake, the move by High Valley is a relief.

Baird said that means “we can continue to efficiently commute to our workplaces, in spite of the fact that UTA has implemented drastic changes that would impose multiple transfers for all of us and more than double our commute time.”

UTA spokesperson Carl Arky told KPCW the UTA 902 will still operate its shortened route. It will only make one stop, in Millcreek at the Olympus Cove Park-N-Ride, instead of five stops between Salt Lake Central Station and Dilworth Elementary School as it does now. It costs $5 per trip.

He said UTA may do away with the 902 route altogether next spring if there aren’t enough riders to justify it.

He said the changes next month, including significant cuts to ski buses in the Cottonwood canyons, are due to driver shortages. He said UTA currently has around 85 empty positions.

According to its proposed 2023 budget, High Valley Transit will spend about $800,000 on the Salt Lake City bus route. High Valley has already been covering about two-thirds of UTA’s operating cost for that bus route, paying $750,000 a year. So, running the route itself will only cost High Valley $50,000 more. That’s because High Valley’s contracted labor costs are lower.

High Valley officials said the change still depends on finalized agreements with other stakeholders.

KPCW will continue to provide updates as High Valley Transit releases more details, such as bus schedules.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.
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