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High Valley Transit reveals plan for bus route from Park City to Heber City

The High Valley Transit District's microtransit system hit its ridership goal for the year four months early.
Evelyn Cervantes
High Valley Transit District
According to a February report, the High Valley Transit District's microtransit system hit its ridership goal for the year four months early.

Plans for public transit in Wasatch County are quickly taking shape as the push to expand High Valley Transit service into the Heber Valley continues.

Is public transportation in and around Heber City and Midway a priority among residents, and would they support a sales tax to fund it?

As Wasatch County looks at options to work with High Valley Transit, which provides free transit in Summit County, the future of public buses and shuttles in the Heber Valley could hinge on those questions.

“We've been in very active conversations with Wasatch County,” said David Geffen, High Valley Transit board member. “We were hopeful that there might be service starting by winter, but that is completely up to the Wasatch County Council. Initial work on routes and costing have just been completed, and they're expected to be reviewed and discussed by the Wasatch Council over the next few weeks.”

On Tuesday, a regional transportation committee of Wasatch County, Summit County and High Valley Transit officials met and shared findings of a Wasatch County transit study approved in February.

Despite the fast progress, there still may be a long road ahead in deciding whether High Valley is a good fit in Wasatch County.

“Because we haven’t had a whole lot of public dialogue about this, I think it’s hard to gauge what the public’s perception of transit is right now,” said Dustin Grabau, Wasatch County manager. “Even the council I don’t think has ever officially weighed in on whether we would fund transit, other than that they’re interested in studying it.”

According to Grabau, the county has a range of options with High Valley Transit. It also has various ways it could pay for public transit, including five separate transit taxes, each about 2.5 cents on the dollar. Two of those would require the public to approve them. If the county levied all five options, they would amount to 1.25% additional sales tax, or $1.25 for every $100 spent.

One bus route proposal includes stops on the northern and southern ends of Heber connecting to the Park City Old Town Transit Center. Buses between roughly 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. could pick up passengers hourly or possibly every 15 minutes. Depending on hours of operation, frequency and whether the service would charge a rider fee, Grabau said it could cost the county between $2 million and $8 million a year.

Grabau said another component of the plan is microtransit, which is already in place in Summit County and has exceeded expectations for demand in its first year there.

“The idea,” he said, “is that it functions kind of like a public transit version of Uber or Lyft, where you have an app and you would call up a ride and, based on your trip plan, that car will take you and possibly pick up others along the way and drop you off at your destination.”

He added that microtransit shuttles wouldn’t deliver passengers outside of the Heber Valley but could be a common way to get to the main bus route that would go to Park City.

Microtransit would cost the county an additional $2 to $4 million.

Grabau estimated that a minimalist option for public transit could cost about $5 million. He said the county might be able to cover that by levying sales taxes that don’t require voter approval.

All proposals and conversations are still in preliminary phases. Grabau said there’ll be public meetings in the months to come where the council and the public can share opinions about the project.

Next Wednesday, the county will discuss the project in its regular council meeting.

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