[By Jay Hamburger]
Uber and Lyft, two ridesharing firms with heavy operations in Park City, expressed concern as leaders in the community recently approved a series of so-called drop-and-load zones along Main Street that are designed to reduce congestion and improve safety.
The Park City Council at a recent meeting created the zones in locations that are typically some of the busiest spots along Main Street. A vehicle must hold a City Hall-issued permit to use a drop-and-load zone after 5 p.m. The permits are priced at $200 annually. The permits are available to anyone, but it has appeared likely the transportation and lodging industries will be especially interested.
As the elected officials were preparing to make the decision, ridesharing rivals Uber and Lyft co-signed a three-page letter to Mayor Andy Beerman and the City Council outlining worries. Uber and Lyft were among the business interests that followed the discussions at City Hall leading to the recent enactment of the drop-and-load zones. Locally based transportation firms and Main Street merchants also closely followed the talks.
The letter from Uber and Lyft, dated Nov. 20 and signed by public policy representatives of the two firms, says the City Hall program “is not feasible to implement” for ridesharing firms like the two companies. In Utah, it notes, state officials regulate firms like Uber and Lyft.
The letter describes a “unique business model” and says “it is also simply impractical to expect thousands of drivers to pay significant upfront fees in the event they are matched at some point with a Park City ride.”
“There will also be significant confusion and poor customer experience of Park City visitors. Once drivers know that a ride to Park City can lead to costly citations, Park City visitors coming into town from the airport or elsewhere may see rides canceled or be dropped off blocks from their hotel or chosen destination on Main Street in winter conditions,” the letter also says, arguing that Park City’s economy could be hurt.
The Uber and Lyft representatives also claim the drop-and-load zones could be better suited for transportation firms rather than the ridesharing ones.
“Paid drop and load zones may work for commercial operators with relatively small and static numbers of vehicles operating in Park City, but they are punitive, counterproductive, and ineffective when applied” to firms like Uber and Lyft, the letter says.
The City Council at the recent meeting created drop-and-load zones in a series of well-placed locations in the Main Street core. The program, designed as a pilot, will launch in December and last until March. Vehicles with the proper permit must be actively dropping people off or picking them up in the zones.
Some of the locations include outside the Wasatch Brew Pub, outside the Main Street post office, in the vicinity of the 7th Street intersection and at the location of a walkway between Main Street and Swede Alley known for a bronze sculpture of a bear.
The letter from Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, indicates the firms have devised an alternative that relies on the use of technology. The firms say they “can each create designated pickup and dropoff zones in our respective apps that comport with the proposed zones on Main Street, Swede Alley, and elsewhere in Park City, narrowing our apps’ use and navigation to those approved zones.” They say they are willing to invest in engineering, operations and analytics.
“Through this significant investment of time, engineering resources, and consumer data analytics — in return for access to approved Main Street zones — we believe such a collaboration with you and your team will lead to more effectively achieving your goals,” the letter says.
The letter was also sent to two City Hall staffers involved in the discussions about the drop-and-load zones, five Sundance Institute officials and the Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents the interests of businesses on or just off Main Street.