Lee Taylor: A much cheaper way to ease LCC traffic

A parking structure and timed entry would be a lot cheaper than a gondola.

In regards to Terry Heinrich’s informal survey of cars going up Little Cottonwood Canyon, and her finding that slightly more than half of the cars only had one occupant, I have the following proposal.

The Utah Department of Transportation would set up a system where canyon-bound cars would be directed to a parking facility. A 2,500-car parking structure is already planned for the proposed gondola. This structure could be modified for this proposed system.

At the parking facility, an attendant would issue a ticket that would be inserted into a kiosk at the entrance to the canyon with a gate that would then open. If the car has two occupants, the attendant would give the occupants a ticket for immediate entry to use at the canyon kiosk and allow them to drive up the canyon. If the car only has one occupant, the occupant would get an entrance ticket with a delayed entry time and be directed to an upper level of the facility to park. The entry time could be as short as 10 minutes on a weekday or as long as 20-plus minutes on a holiday weekend.

I would bet that people waiting in the parking facility would find others to carpool with while they wait. Then they could exit the structure together in one car and return to the facility entrance to get an immediate entry ticket.

The kiosk at the entry to the canyon could have an attendant who could raise the gate to let in buses and cars with three or more occupants. No need to go to the parking facility first. People who carpool would get to the ski resorts much more quickly than the 37-minute gondola ride.

This system would spare the ski resorts the cost of building bigger parking lots on their valuable property, as there should be many fewer cars driving to the top of the canyon. It would also reduce the number of cars contributing to air pollution.

Costs involved would be the parking structure, kiosk, attendants’ pay, educational media campaign and signage directing cars to the parking structure. These costs would be a fraction of the $500 million to $1 billion cost of the gondola. It is also a flexible system that could be modified to meet traffic demand and easily discontinued if not needed in the summer. It would also be less expensive than the $3 million to $4 million annually that would be needed to maintain the gondola.

This system could be implemented as soon as the parking facility was finished, maybe even in time for next ski season. This would be much faster than the gondola could be built.

Taxpayer money is a finite resource. The multi millions of dollars that the gondola would cost should be used to fund items which benefit our society as a whole, such as education, solving the homeless crisis and saving the Great Salt Lake. Wouldn’t this be better than using our taxpayer money to benefit ski resorts that already rake in over a billion dollars annually?

Lee Taylor

Lee Taylor, Salt Lake City, is a retired pharmacist, a 40-year Utah resident, new grandmother and an informal environmental activist.