The canyon traffic struggle

A view from a lift at Alta Ski Resort. This year, the canyons have been booming with heavy traffic. Warning signs have been posted up and down Little Cottonwood this ski season, alerting skiers and riders of the traffic conundrum.  Photos by Rachel Robertson

A view from a lift at Alta Ski Resort. This year, the canyons have been booming with heavy traffic. Warning signs have been posted up and down Little Cottonwood this ski season, alerting skiers and riders of the traffic conundrum.  Photos by Rachel Robertson

Salt Lake City has many environmental problems. If you need any specific evidence for this claim, head up Little Cottonwood Canyon, stop and then look back down the canyon. The view is usually filled with a cloud. This cloud is a pit of smog that covers Salt Lake City.

The reason? There are many, but CO2 emissions from cars and other transportation vehicles contribute to the mess. At the same time, we allow an infinite number of cars into the canyon roads up to Snowbird, Alta, Solitude and Brighton, which also contributes to the problem.

This results in ginormous traffic jams during the weekends, which can trap automobiles in the canyons for hours. We have to create a solution that reduces the carbon emissions created by the amount of automobiles in the canyon, along with reducing traffic on the roads. Here are some ideas on how to reduce the amount of cars in the canyon.

Create a toll booth

Have a toll booth at the beginning of each of the roads. A solution to the constant number of cars that travel into Little and Big Cottonwood Canyon would be having a fee for different types of car and trucks that travel up there. The price would vary depending on the time of week and holiday periods.

For example, an average toll price would be $10, but would increase to $2,5­30 during busy holiday periods. This would put more cars and trucks in the numerous park-and-go’s surrounding the canyon roads, which would require an improved performance by the UTA.

High in the mountains, skiers and snowboarders can overlook the smog. CO2 emissions from cars and other transportation vehicles contribute to Utah's poor air quality. 

High in the mountains, skiers and snowboarders can overlook the smog. CO2 emissions from cars and other transportation vehicles contribute to Utah's poor air quality. 

Increase bus frequency

Increase the number of UTA buses that go up the valley. One of the main perks of Utah mountains is that there are public transportation buses that can get you back into the city. But, most buses during rush hours come few and far between and are absolutely packed.

During peak hours, which are usually around 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., along with 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., there needs to be UTA buses leaving to and from the ski resorts every 10 minutes.

The current system of every 30 minutes crams people, along with making it challenging for commuters to get back into the valley before 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.  

Increased valley stops

Have more stops in the downtown/Westminster area to get up to the mountains. With this being my first year at Westminster, I have been surprised on how hard it has been to get up to the mountains.

One of the reasons has been the UTA Ski Services avoidance of the Sugar House area. In general, with the exception of one to two routes, the buses generally avoid Salt Lake City and stick toward more locations in the Cottonwood Heights.

If more routes were added in the Salt Lake City area, more people would be able to access the buses, along with the likelihood that it would decrease the number of drivers on the canyon roads.

The Biggie: Create a rail system

Create a rail system that moves between the mountains. This would be a huge improvement from the current system that we have, as it would push a lot of skiers up the hill without using the road. It would also significantly reduce the amount of carbon emissions that are produced while driving up and down the road.

Instead, only one train could move hundreds of people up the hill and potentially use clean energy as a fuel source. It would be a good idea to have the train stops be at the park-and-go’s on the base of the canyon and possibly have them connect with the TRAX in downtown, Sandy and Murray.  

On an ending note, if you do not own a car that has snow tires, 4x4 or uses chains, do not head up the canyon during powder days. This one is extremely frustrating. A car or truck that does not have the proper tires has a higher chance of crashing, which has the potential of causing a major traffic jam. 

These types of crashes take hours to clean up and halt traffic to a standstill. Tolls can also check to see if vehicles have the right tires, and if they don’t, they would have to keep their car in one of the parking lots.