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WBA Supports Enhanced Bus Transportation Option for LCC

Hello Wasatch Backcountry Enthusiasts!

Buses and Gondolas – Roads and Snowsheds. There’s been a lot of chatter and buzz recently about the EIS that UDOT is currently doing for Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) and the various options that are being considered to alleviate the traffic issues in LCC. Given this issue is right in our wheelhouse, Wasatch Backcountry Alliance has received a lot of requests for our position. This message is to provide a high-level outline of our position and recommendation.

RECOMMENDED OPTION: Enhanced Bus (no widening of Hwy 210 in LCC)

  1. Lowest Environmental Impact. We favor using low- or zero-emission buses and vans on the current LCC road, and solutions that minimize any additional construction in LCC. Expanding the road or installing a gondola will have a larger environmental footprint – the gondola towers are rumored to be over 150’ tall – including the regular lift-tower maintenance along our watershed.

  2. Inclusive Transportation that Serves Dispersed Users. Buses and vans can provide transportation to trailheads, serving dispersed users. The gondola will not stop for you at the backcountry trailheads and as proposed will not be a year-round solution. 

  3. Fastest Time to Solution. We strongly believe we have solutions that exist today that can have an immediate impact. Why wait? Let’s do a better job with the infrastructure we have in place today.

  4. Lowest Cost. Enhanced Bus Service: $283M.

$283M — Enhanced Bus Service

$470M — Enhanced Bus Service with Peak Period Shoulder Lane (PPSL)

$390M — Gondola Alternative

Other considerations

  • Did you know? There are actually two different gondola proposals: the current proposal in the EIS is from UDOT. However there is also a proposal for a gondola that would originate from Wasatch Blvd at the site of the La Caille restaurant. Stay tuned for more info to come regarding the differences between these proposals. 

  • Egress & Interconnect: The topic of egress has been frequently discussed as a need of future transportation solutions in the canyons. The canyons have operated for decades without egress and it is a prominent natural feature that keeps these canyons special. The gondola could also be the first step toward connections (interconnect) between LCC and BCC, not to mention Park City and the Wasatch Back, starting the process of chipping away at what undeveloped areas remain and leading to additional development and crowding in the canyons. 

  • Solutions require convenience: Let’s not fool ourselves… if we expect the proposal to be a solution to the transportation issue, it needs to be convenient for all users. The current gondola proposal would require users to park at a hub near the mouth of BCC or on 9400 South, put on their ski gear, take a bus to the gondola station at the mouth of LCC, grab their ski gear for a 2nd time, and make a transfer along the gondola ride. Now envision a family with small kids facing this challenge – will they take the gondola? We doubt most will. In contrast, hopping on one bus to take you to a trailhead or resort will be an easier option, especially if more buses and parking are established.

  • What’s in it for the locals? First, WBA is not keen on the gondola as we are worried about the commercialization and idea of making it a “cool experience” for tourists, rather than just being a transportation system to move people. WBA, along with others, have been advocating for a carrying capacity study, but since this complicated endeavor has yet to happen, we hesitate in supporting a proposal that pumps more people into our already crowded mountains. Second, once the gondola option is put in effect, the bus system would be cut back, thereby making it necessary to drive to get to most dispersed use trailheads in the canyons. Third, the associated development will be mostly at the taxpayers expense although this solution mainly benefits ski resort patrons. And fourth, the gondola as proposed is only for winter-time use, so this will not solve any of the traffic issues outside of ski season.

More Background & Resources

As part of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Little Cottonwood Canyon and Wasatch Blvd., that began in 2018, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) released three transportation options. You can view the entire EIS here.

Have a Voice!

Once you have reviewed the EIS, please be sure to submit a comment by going here. Comments are accepted until July 10, 2020. Since you’ve read this far – don’t forget to comment. The backcountry community needs you!

WBA supports enhanced buses because they have the minimum impact on the canyon environment while providing the maximum return for efficiency, access, and TIME. Do you want to sit in the red snake for 5-10 more seasons while we wait for a gondola to be built? We need solutions ASAP.

Thanks for your support and engagement at this critical time.

-Your Friends at Wasatch Backcountry Alliance

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2 responses to “WBA Supports Enhanced Bus Transportation Option for LCC”

  1. Lindsay Pomeroy says:

    It makes me sad to see the development and destruction of our natural spaces. It sounds like an enhanced bus system would allow more people access these awesome places while minimizing impact. Also, the infrastructure is already there- less money, less time, less destruction. Hopefully we can all agree!!

  2. Jack Frazier says:

    Adding more buses is not a bad idea, but I doubt it will work.
    This works in theory, but I would say it will not achieve the overall goal of reducing traffic in the canyons. I live at the base and the biggest problem you are not looking at is that the canyons are NOT always crowded. They are mostly only crowded on holidays, weekends, or powder days!

    Things to look at:
    1. are the buses currently at max capacity?
    2. what are the incentives to riding the bus vs driving a car. Or what would the incentives be?
    3. other reasons canyon is crowded
    3a. (buses/cars sliding off the road
    3b. cars getting stuck.
    3c. road closures

    On a powder day no one is rational, we are all trying to get up the mountain and some only have time for a run or two. Others are on vacation and have kids, they are not willing to give up mobility they are usually the ones who don’t know you need 4wd or are not used to icy conditions and slow up/completely stop the road. And lastly, if the snow is falling too hard WE HAVE TO SHUT THE CANYON DOWN ALL TOGETHER!!!! We can have all the buses in the world, it won’t matter if people don’t use them or can’t use them.

    Reasons a gondola is a better idea.
    1. it is fun, people will want to use it. it could be more scenic and if done properly will have minimal impact on the habitat.

    2. it wouldn’t be subjected to road closures. If done properly we would no longer have to worry about road closures up or down the mountain. We can get there earlier and stay later.

    3. Will be more stable. if a family of 4 spends thousands of dollars to ride the best snow on earth and then can’t because the conditions are “too good” to get up the mountain, they probably aren’t coming back.

    4. it would be it’s own destination, people would come for it! no one is coming to Utah for the buses.

    5. it could possibly pay for itself, and over time would be less impact on the environment. Using solar credits could even make it carbon negative.

    I strongly suggest looking into a gondola system in more detail. It will create a steady flow in and out, will still allow people to drive. Will wind up being less of an impact on the environment. And will be a draw rather than a hassle. I have some ideas for how best to setup a station as well, but will go into more detail if the gondola proposal passes.

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