A new transportation culture is needed
The old adage goes, “Everyone loves buses because they hope other people will ride them.” This is never truer than in Summit County.
The County has focused on busing as a solution to transportation issues. Buses work in certain areas but I think we need to take a more logical approach county-wide.
I believe we have specific usage based transportation issues. Sundance traffic is bad during the evening. Christmas week traffic is bad in the morning and evening. Ski resort visitor traffic is bad from 8AM until 10AM and 3 PM to 5PM on the weekends. Highway 248 traffic is bad between 7:30AM and 9 AM when school is in session. Resort worker traffic from Salt Lake adds to congestion in the morning and late afternoon. I’m sure there are other peak times.
Buses likely work for peak times and runs, but I don’t know that running buses all the time is the most environmental or effective use of our funds. An empty electric bus is worse for the environment than no bus at all. I would like to investigate whether we can provide a superior level of traffic reduction, at peak times, by strategically using buses.
More importantly, can we get buses up into the neighborhoods on weekends so that people can easily get to the resorts via bus? Can we encourage our resorts to have seasonal lockers at their stops so people may be more likely to ride the bus? There are logical incentives that may encourage people to use our buses more often.
E-bikes and E-scooters
Over the past two years, my wife and I have used our e-bikes to commute over 4,000 miles around the Snyderville Basin. My wife rides to work from Jeremy to Prospector. I take the kids to school. I go to meetings. We do our shopping. We ride to concerts. All of that is via e-bike and it takes a car off the road every time. It’s also a far better experience. I get exercise. I see more. I experience more. I am out in our Mountain Community. I’d like everyone to be able to experience that.
Don’t confuse this with the Summit Bike Share e-bikes for rent at a few stations across the area. I don’t view those as a transportation solution; they are a novelty. Those bikes are recreation. An e-bike you own, that you can take from your home to a destination and back, is completely different. It becomes an alternative to a car.
So, I would like to find ways to get e-bikes and e-scooters into the hands of residents. I want to get these methods of transportation into locals’ garages. It does two things. At a minimum, it solves the last mile problem of how to make it easy to get to the bus. More hopefully, people will realize how easy it is to ride an e-bike or e-scooter around the community and they’ll depend on their car less.
How do we do that? I’d like to look at group purchases through local e-bike dealers. Perhaps it’s possible for residents to buy e-bikes at cost. That does two things. First, it makes it easier for someone to buy an e-bike and second it supports our local businesses because they will be supporting the bikes.
Perhaps Summit County could support the financing of e-bikes. Perhaps, Summit County could lease locals the e-bikes on a seasonal basis?
Regardless of the method used to get alternative transportation into the garages of locals, an e-bike or e-scooter in a garage (or hallway of an apartment) is going to do more to reduce traffic than having e-bike kiosks at a few select places around Summit County. Likewise, it provides an equal option for residents that live outside of the Snyderville Basin to achieve the same benefits. Why shouldn’t all Summit County residents have the ability to experience the fun of an e-bike or e-scooter that is their own?
Likewise, if resorts, hotel owners, and VRBO’s had these options available through a group buy, visitors would use them too.
The final reason to get e-bikes and e-scooters into Summit County garages is that Bird, Lime, and others are coming. Imagine Main Street littered with Lime Scooters. Locals will despise how it looks but visitors will value their utility more. The government will spend months fighting it but they will eventually fold because people love these things — just like has happened everywhere else. We may have a chance to head this off.
We are a hardy people
I don’t believe the Summit County area should become another Santa Monica. I don’t want us to become a resort community. We are a series of MOUNTAIN TOWNS. I don’t really believe riding buses is who we are. There are times for that, but it’s not in our nature. Seeing some random person riding their e-bike through snow, with skis attached to the back… that is us.