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Wasatch County to fund public transit study

High Valley Transit
Along with a traditional bus service, the High Valley Transit District runs a free on-demand microtransit service in Summit County. Wasatch County will fund a study to determine whether to expand High Valley services into the Heber Valley.

A new High Valley Transit study will look at extending the free bus services into Wasatch County.

In recent years, Wasatch County has considered bringing public transit to the Heber Valley. At its regular meeting Wednesday, the county council voted to fund a study by High Valley Transit for $21,000.

In Summit County, High Valley runs a traditional fixed-route bus service that runs from Jeremy Ranch to Deer Valley Resort. It also offers a free on-demand microtransit service that shuttles people around the Snyderville Basin in minivans. Summit County formed the district in 2021, and it's largely funded through sales taxes. High Valley launched its Summit County services last summer.

Though the service has gotten mixed reviews over wait times and unpredictability, it’s been widely used and popular, particularly with younger residents.

Wasatch County Manager Dustin Grabau says the Wasatch County study will build on one conducted in Summit County earlier.

The new study will seek to determine how popular the service might be and where to provide it.

Ideas on the table include a bus route with stops in the busiest areas of the county. Grabau says there’s also an appetite among Utah and Summit counties to establish inter-county connector routes.

“As far as specific route information, we don’t have any of that yet,” Grabau says. “I think it likely will include some fixed route, you know, two stops in Heber, maybe an extension into Midway.”

The study will include whether the microtransit service would benefit Wasatch County.

“I think something like that could work well for not only [the Heber Valley] but also the Jordanelle area, where the ski resort is,” Grabau says. “It could help bridge the gap between where the fixed route goes and where the users are and want to end up.”

The county has so far only committed to funding the study, not actually providing public transit. Whether the county decides to ultimately do so depends on results of the study, public interest and whether the council believes it’s worth the cost.

“I would guess that over the next few years is when you'll see it rolling out,” Grabau says. “I think the decision points will be as if the council wants to implement a transit tax. And as soon as they do that, I think you'll start to see service. And I think that could be as soon as you know, by the end of this year. But if there's not the political will, or there's not public support for it, you know that that will probably be further out.”

Grabau says as of now, there are five types of sales taxes the county could use to fund public transit. They add up to $1.25 for every $10 spent. Some of those taxes would require voter approval.

The High Valley Transit study will also build on one the Mountainland Association of Governments conducted in 2020 about public transit options in Wasatch County. It considered local service, routes to Park City and Utah County and microtransit.

Findings of the 2020 study are published at connectingwasatch.info. For more on High Valley Transit in Summit County, visit kpcw.org.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the High Valley Transit District is not a subsidiary of Summit County.

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