A passenger rail system, “drone cars” and shuttles are on the table for discussion as the Moab Transit Authority Study Committee begins to research public transportation options for Grand County.
The committee’s first meeting was held at Moab City Hall on Tuesday, May 15, following the May 1 decision by the Grand County Council to designate an ad-hoc committee to research and study transit development.
The meeting began with the committee’s introductions and dialogue on the assumed focus and intent of the committee moving forward.
BALANCING THE NEEDS OF LOCALS AND TOURISTS
Local businessmen Kurt Schweitzer and Randy Mason of Trail Taxi attended the meeting with an expressed interest in the development of transit in the Moab area.
“I am interested in knowing if you guys are interested in mainly the tourism market, or the locals,” Mason said. “I want to get involved to some extent.”
Committee member and airport director Judd Hill said he would like to see the committee approach the transit issues with a sense of balance between the needs of both locals and tourists.
“[I would like to see a] design for locals with friends visiting who want to see stuff, that way it’s not just designed for the tourists,” Hill said. “Hit particular tourism locations, but stay local.”
THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
Members of the Moab Transit Authority Study Committee include Hill, and Moab Area Travel Council Director Elaine Gizler, Grand County Community and Economic Development Director Zacharia Levine, and citizens Emily Campbell, Michael Liss and Joe Kingsley.
Committee member Joe Kingsley encouraged members of the committee and county council to “think outside of the box” on transit development.
“This is extremely important,” he said. “I’ve been here, done this.”
Kingsley’s former experience in transit includes an appointment by former president Richard Nixon to serve as vice chair to the National Railroad Corporation (Amtrak). Kinglsey also served as director of corporate planning for United Airlines, and was vice chair of the Grand County Travel Council for almost 12 years.
“I feel strongly that now is the time to be proactive. I welcome this committee,” he said.
Kingsley said there is a need for a bicycle hub in Moab..
“We can have people who land in Salt Lake City, take a shuttle train, and have here in Moab a bike hub so that they can rent bikes, and again, be able to come to Moab without a car,” Kingsley said.
The discussion included mentions of shuttles, bicycles, taxis and bus systems and whether UDOT will develop a plan for a highway bypass around the Moab area.
Airport director Judd Hill considered the possible connection to passenger rail with the existing rail system in Grand County.
“There is an underutilized rail system that comes to the edge of town,” Hill said. “That’s one of those pieces of infrastructure that is ripe for use.”
Also sitting in on the May 15 meeting were Grand County Council member Karen Guzman-Newton, Aaron Lindberg, of Poison Spider Bicycles and Trail Mix, along with Schweitzer and Mason from Trail Taxi.
“FLYING CARS” ARE JUST A MATTER OF TIME
Guzman-Newton said she has been talking with UDOT about transportation needs in the community and said she wants to address what the community’s needs will be in the next 10 to 20 years.
“One of my goals is how to get travelers here who are not going to be car-dependent,” Guzman-Newton said.
The committee discussed that Utah State Legislature is planning for the implementation of driverless car technology.
“UDOT is trying to encourage cities and towns to look beyond the current town,” Guzman-Newton said.
Hill said the possibility of “drone cars” as a transit solution in Moab is a possibility in the next decade or so.
“There will be flying cars very, very soon. Boeing will have them on the market by 2023,” Hill said.
Hill said there will be a type of self-driving car that can take off and fly using GPS, like a pilotless drone.
“The state of Utah is looking for full integration in the Wasatch front by 2023, and the full state integration of drones flying humans by 2028,” Hill said.
BICYCLES AND PHONE APPS SEEN AS A SOLUTION
Aaron Lindberg, an employee of Poison Spider Bicycles, said frequent travelers fly into the Canyonlands Field Airport, take a taxi into downtown Moab and from there, they rent bicycles, walk, or look for alternative ways to get around the city without the use of a personal vehicle.
Lindberg said moving people around the area who want to travel without personal vehicles can be made safer by the county’s creating a phone app that can be used as a transit guide.
“These young millennials that have money, that want to have recreation experiences, there’s a lot of them, and they use apps, and they want packages,” said Lindberg. “It needs to be shown to them, click a button — this is how you go to Moab without using a vehicle.”
“I think the bikes are a simple solution to a complex problem,” Lindberg said.
Long-range planning includes possibility of “drone cars”
“Click a button — this is how you go to Moab without using a vehicle.”
– Aaron Lindberg