Proposed Study Could Lead To Creation Of Bus Line Connecting Park City, Heber, and Midway

Roughly 30 percent of Park City’s workforce comes from Wasatch County. Which is one reason why Midway, Heber and Park City are all considering a joint study to look at the possibility of adding a commuter bus line between the communities.ListenListening…4:25

See the original story at KPCW.org.

Mountainland Association of Governments or MAG is a government organization part of an interlocal agreement between Summit, Wasatch and Utah counties. Shawn Seager is the director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization with MAG he spoke with both Midway and Heber City councils about a study to look at the feasibility of a commuter bus line connecting the Wasatch county towns to Park City.

“We try to create that list of stakeholders that would participate in the process.” Seager explained, “We’d gather information, travel origins, destinations. Conduct public surveys and outreach efforts, identify those transit routes. What type of mode we would choose, would it be a big bus, a little bus? What the schedule might be and what costs would be associated with running that type of service on an annual basis. That’s the kind of scope of work of what this study would do for us. You’d take that information and make a decision on it as to what you’d want to do next.”

Seager explained to the councils that the study would in large part be funded by a grant given to Park City. The estimated cost for the study is $50,000. However, Park City has $37,000 left over from a UDOT grant that was given to research the feasibility of the Kamas commuter link.

“We have some existing study money that’s left over in Park City, $37,000 there.” Seager continued, “MAG through our local planning assistance funds we could put it $5,000. Heber City if you could participate at about $2,000 and if Midway could participate at about $1,000 and then Park City would pick up any of the remaining costs. That’s the proposal that we are making right now to Heber, Midway and Park City.”

The pilot Kamas commuter line is free fare and is subsidized by Park City transit. In a November meeting between the three town’s mayors the idea of Park City transit subsidizing the Wasatch county pilot program was also discussed.

“Park City is highly motivated.” Seager said, “There’s a bit of a parking problem in Park City, there’s a bit of a traffic problem in Park City. I think the motivation is coming from them to try to intercept some of those trips that are coming or are destined to their city and get them off of the roadway onto transit. So, I wonder about what any future cost share splits is going to be. Mayor I remember in our discussions with Mayor Beerman us talking about a pilot program and maybe that would be something that Park City could fund, so who knows what the actual cost is going to be.”

“They were pretty amiable to that suggestion” added Midway Mayor Celeste Johnson.

Although neither Midway or Heber officially approved the funding of the study, both councils indicated they were willing to move forward on the project. Heber council member Ron Crittenden asked about Wasatch County’s interest. Seager reported that the county had previously not expressed a strong desire to participate but that he would present the idea to them to gauge interest. Another Heber Council member Heidi Franco asked about existing commercial transit programs

“This study would identify existing private transportation providers and there are several of those as you point out in Park City.” Seager explained, “They typically don’t run fixed route service on a regular schedule which is what we’re talking about. They’re typically charter or custom service so it’s two different markets that they’re doing. Once you start to run a fixed route, a regular scheduled service, you can then qualify for some federal funds and some state funds through UDOT which is how we would approach this project.”

Midway Mayor Celeste Johnson noted that in addition to commuters the bus route could be beneficial for tourists.

“One of the reasons I reached out to Shawn was we have a real need to be able to get people from our resorts over there to ski.” Mayor Johnson continued, “A lot of those folks come in on buses, or whatever, they don’t rent cars and they need some sort of transportation. Zermatt has brought in 24 ski groups this year compared to seven that they brought in last year. They have had to—their small buses but they have had to contract with Le Bus you know that busing line, and it’s been very expensive for them. So workforce, skiers, people who just don’t want to drive and deal with parking in Park City could ride it. I think there’s more than just the workforce options.”

Seager guessed the study, once approved would take six to 12 months. He also said it’s possible to begin the study within the first quarter of this year.

Heber Valley Artisan Cheese held their 2nd annual Ice Sculptures Exhibition this weekend. Several local businesses sponsored the sculptures being displayed. There were also two different ice carving demonstrations. The event was free to the public.

The annual event began last year when Carolee Kohler saw ice sculpting on a Hallmark movie and thought it would be a fun idea for their farm. They are also considering a woodcarving event.

According to Lindsey Strother, social media and events coordinator, each sculpture takes between 1-3 hours to carve. “We contacted Amazing Ice Creations back in November, and we reached out to local companies to sponsor the ice sculptures,” she said. “Yesterday morning around 9 am, they came in a massive truck and dropped them all off for us, and we set them up.”

Along with the ice sculptures, sponsors receive a sign and canopy for the display and social media marketing. The sponsors decide what they want to have sculpted. After the event, they can take the ice sculptures and display them at their businesses. The creations normally last a couple of weeks. Some will be left in the field and can be viewed throughout the week.

The ice this year included Olaf, company logos, animals, and other items. Darron Kingston, the sculptor, has carved ice for over 10 years with his dad. According to Kingston, “I like sculptures that give me a challenge. Here, for example, my favorite was the lumberjack.” One of his favorite past creations was a 9-foot bear.

Grant Kohler, owner of Heber Valley Artisan Cheese, explained, “We decided to do something that was free and something that people could just get out and come and enjoy. Especially this year with Covid, it seems like Januarys are slow months. People are looking for things to be able to get outside and do.” He continued, “Businesses pay in and buy the sculptures, we have them sculpted, and then we just let people come and enjoy them.” Kohler estimated around 3,000 to 4,000 people will stop by the event.

The dairy farm also offers cheese-making classes and tours of their new robotic barn. “The tours are everyday except Sunday,” according to Kohler. “People hayride over, intermingle with the cows, see the barn and amenities, and watch the cows be milked. The cows will literally go get milked on their own.” Tickets for the tours and other events are available on the Heber Valley Artisan Cheese website: https://hebervalleyartisancheese.com/.