Thursday, October 30, 2014

Transportation Planning

I went to the County Transportation open house the other day and pleasantly discovered that it was standing room only.  Traffic and water seem to be the major issues for the future of Park City and Summit County.   In a sense they are the same problem since traffic flows like water with pressures and friction, laminar and turbulent flow, supply and demand. Water, however, flows towards money and we have plenty of that.  Unfortunately you can’t buy your way out of a traffic jam. 

With exponential population growth predicted for the state and the county, it is good to see that the county has several creative ideas for the inevitable future traffic jam, rather than trying to pave our way out of it.   Much of these ideas involved fewer cars in Old Town and more bus, train and gondola usage by visitors, locals and day skiers alike.   Some of them even involved ameliorating general Old Town congestion and air pollution as well.  When Vail builds their model, walkable villages in the parking lots at PCMR and Canyons and charges 30 dollars a day for parking there, we will all be scrambling for the bus or the satellite and intercept parking lots.  Economics is the noxious planning stick here and the carrot incentive.  Look to Colorado if you want to see the future of Park City, with tons of busses, satellite lots, paid parking and endless roundabouts

The first step, however, is to take advantage of the existing infrastructure we have now.  Highway 224 is the critical collector artery for this area and should be fully actualized and computerized to coordinate and maximize traffic flow, in real time, for cars, busses, bikes and pedestrians.  Either UDOT is ignoring us or they are totally incompetent or malicious.  They have not put the money, time or effort into maximizing this highway despite the economic activity that depends on it and the taxes paid by its users. 

Consider a hypothetical example; The north bound left turn lane actuator from 224 to Payday Drive, has been broken for most of this year.  This is usually because of water infiltration into the actuator in the pavement and/or freeze thaw damage.  The broken presence detector therefore defaults to switching on the left turn light every cycle when no one is there and everyone heading south to Park City has to wait, for nothing. If an average of 5 people, paid 50 dollars an hour (these are plumbers and real estate agents damn it), and they wait unnecessarily for half a minute per 2 minute cycle, it amounts to over sixty dollars an hour, 1500 dollars per day and over half a million dollars per year of lost productivity and wasted time.  Now multiply that by the 10 lights between and I-80 and Deer Valley and you have some serious waste and incentive to invest to make this system the best it can possibly be. 

This is not rocket science.  I worked on a computerized traffic system for roads like this in New York in the mid 70’s with rooms full of large computers that have since been replaced with a chip the size of your phone.   California currently does the best job at signal timing and real time actualization in the world, because they have to.  Their methods and technology should be adopted here to maximize our infrastructure before we start building bus lanes, parking lots, trams and trains to solve this problem.  Let’s go for the low hanging fruit first. 

Finally, the most important component of a traffic system is the nut behind the wheel.   Let’s start proactively modifying our behavior as well, to cut waste and costs and to maintain our quality of life.  Let’s get on the busses, let’s put our kids on their busses.  Let’s carpool and consolidate trips, let’s walk and ride our bikes when we can.  Let’s reduce access to Old Town, and limit the events there.  Let’s give financial incentives to car pools and ride the busses to the resort and events.

Let’s all be our own traffic reduction and calming example with minimal, kinder, gentler usage and be an alternative model to our car crazy culture.  If we cannot solve this problem here, in our progressive microcosm with unlimited funding, what are the chances for Salt Lake, California and the entire country?  The future you save may be your own. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Canyons Golf Corse Review

We went on a bike ride through Canyons the other day.  The new golf course, although controversial and probably unnecessary, looked amazing.  It appeared like someone photo-shopped Pebble Beach onto Park West.  What was a pile of rocks two months ago has been transformed into sweeping fairways, vertical tee boxes and expansive greens.  The 360 degree views were expansive and highlighted all the beauty of this area.

Most of the holes fit the landscape but some of them looked forced and contrived.  I rode up ten switchbacks to the tee for # 10 and it was steeper than Mojo - Puke Hill.  The hillside had been decimated for this signature hole when reasonable tea boxes would have fit the terrain much better and minimized the disturbance.   It looks tricky and quirky and hopefully not goofy. We do get a flush of red water in Silver Springs when it rains and Willow Creek flows but hopefully that will clear up as their re-vegetation takes hold.  Unfortunately the activity on #10 above the Silver Spring water source has possibly disturbed the flow quantities and water quality of the natural spring we depend upon.  For everything that we gain, there is something that we sacrifice.  You don’t get something for nothing.

Several holes encroach upon the highway and adjacent condos.  Unfortunately the holes were not designed to steer golfers away from these unnatural hazards.  Sand traps are erroneously placed that will consciously and sub consciously steer golfers towards the highways and condos and make the preferable landing zones small an unobtainable.  The solution may be some huge fences along 224.  This may make for a good golf course but not for a good neighbor.  Good sand traps make good neighbors.

They dumped enough water on it this summer for a small city and were helped by copious and timely rain, so the place looks like a phosphorescent Ireland.  Willow Creek has been re-plumbed, rebuilt and revegetated nicely to compliment the golf layout (anything would have been an improvement).

We do get a flush of red water in Silver Springs when it rains and Willow Creek flows but hopefully that will clear up as their re-vegetation takes hold.  Unfortunately the activity on #10 above the Silver Spring water source has possibly disturbed the flow quantities and water quality of the natural spring we depend upon.  For everything that we gain, there is something that we sacrifice.  You don’t get something for nothing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wild Life

We went on a leaf ride the other day above the Park City and looked down on our perfect little model town far below us.  The leaves were mostly muted with a few tremendous patches of lime, yellow, orange and red.  Conifers looked like Christmas trees with Aspen leaves as bulbs. The trail was carpeted yellow.  The woods were alive with wildlife, in full randy rut and anxiously anticipating the hunting season.  We couldn’t see much game but we could smell moose and elk and deer in wafting patches of musk as we rode through the woods.  It smelled like elephants.  We felt privilege to visit the multi-colored home of these majestic beasts, and to leave them in peace at the end of the day.  They are getting ready for winter, as we are, and need this time to fatten-up¸ raise their young and get healthy for the tough season ahead.  C’est la vie.

I heard about the guy in Summit Park who shot a moose for attacking his dog while they walked a trail, in woods, thru the leaves.  Who takes a gun on a walk with their dog on a designated trail?   I forgot my poop bag but I am packing.  Is there something they are afraid of or something we should be afraid of, besides them?  It is artificial leverage and paranoia.  ?  The dog was off leash and deserved to get chased, its evolution and it is only fair.   To shoot the moose for defending its home is cowardice and arrogance, 45 caliber ego.  I heard he was cited for having his dog off leash.  I can’t speak for our State Militia or Second Amendment Rights, but at least we have a well regulated leash law. 

Park City is an amazing place and a tough place to leave for almost anyplace else, especially this time of year.  I had been in California for a while and couldn’t get out fast enough.  I was pleasantly surprised when I came back at how cool, clear, dry and mellow this place really is.  We are the outliers, compared to the rest of the country, and this is a special place full of distinctive people, living a unique lifestyle, who really want to be here.  We have to remind ourselves and each other of how lucky we really are to live in our model little town in a beautiful, recreational and natural setting.  With new sensibilities moving in and taking over, it is important to uphold the old values we have developed together including civility, recreation, reverence and respect for each other and our natural surroundings.