Park City is pursuing an aggressive climate goal with a little help from the federal government.
In March, the Department of Transportation awarded nearly $2.4 million to help Park City buy three electric buses and one electric passenger van.
“Anytime we can use extra resources to accomplish our goals,” Park City Council member Max Doilney said, “we’re going to use them.”
And those goals are lofty. The injection of federal funding moves the Summit County resort town closer to meeting its target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.
A major piece of meeting that goal is electrifying Park City’s bus fleet. Between the electric buses it already has, the ones that will be paid for with the federal grant and another group of vehicles on order, the city is poised to have more than half its transit fleet running on electricity by next year.
Doilney said his city is a leader in pursuing ambitious emissions goals and hopes its net-zero aspirations will inspire other communities.
“To me,” he said, “the evidence is compelling that every human being on planet Earth needs to step up and do more.”
Other resort towns are cutting emissions
Some areas have already started following suit. After adopting the emissions goal in 2016, Park City inspired the formation of Mountain Towns 2030, a cohort of resort areas — including Colorado’s Breckenridge, Aspen, Vail and Crested Butte — seeking to reduce emissions.
Doilney questions why other communities have lagged behind in adopting similarly aggressive climate measures, but he is also mindful of Park City’s financial advantages. It pulls in a lot of tax revenue, he said, so it can afford to grow an electric bus fleet.
“We’re lucky,” he said, “and not every community has all the resources that we do. But with those resources, you should do something good, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Park City’s bus system has been free since its inception and is popular among residents and tourists alike. Doilney said he began taking the bus as a child and still rides it to council meetings.
As an early adopter of electric buses, Park City has proved it can work, he said. Big cities like Los Angeles have traveled to his town to see how transit officials operate an electric fleet.
The Utah Transit Authority, which serves the vast majority of the state’s population, operated its first all-electric buses in 2020 and plans to expand the use of electric vehicles with the Ogden rapid transit service.
How else the buses will help
What’s happening in Park City is good news, said Christopher Stout, co-founder of the Utah Transit Riders Union. He said bus and rail systems need to go electric to fight climate change.
Most people don’t care what fuels their transportation as long as they’re able to get around, he said, but moving to electricity will hit the brakes on a warming climate.
“So while the typical user doesn’t really think much about what a transit agency is using,” he said, “in the endgame, everybody’s going to be better off for it.”
Aside from helping to reach goals of curbing climate change, the new Park City buses would also give the city the ability to serve riders along State Road 248, where no service currently exists.
Andy Stevenson, a spokesman for Park City’s transit department, said the extra capacity could serve a proposed park-and-ride location at Quinn’s Junction, which connects U.S. Highway 189 to Park City.
“The hope with that,” he said, “is that we’ll be able to capture people parking outside the city limits and taking transit in to kind of alleviate some of the congestion on those corridors.”
The City Council voted Thursday night to postpone making a decision on the 465-stall parking lot.
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