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PARK CITY — With the cutting of a red ribbon, Park City on Friday became the first mountain resort community in the country, and the first city in the state, to operate a zero-emission, all-electric bus system.
“This is a great day for Park City, for Utah and for the nation,” said Blake Fonnesbeck, Park City transit and public works director.
The six buses arrived thanks to Summit County residents who voted to approve a sales tax increase, and a $3.9 million federal grant.
"It wouldn’t have happened without the Summit County residents that stepped forward … and paved the way to start the process for us being able to have these electric buses,” said Nann Worel, a member of the Park City Council.
The buses are faster and more efficient than diesel-fueled buses, running every 10 minutes from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, at about 19 cents per mile.
Park City officials are also working with the Utah Department of Transportation to allow buses to travel on the shoulders of the road during heavy-traffic times, and implement "signal priority" so a light will stay green if a bus needs to get through.
“By having these faster and more efficient buses, it’s going to be easier for Park City commuters to choose to take public transportation,” Worel said, adding "the more folks we can get on buses, the less congestion we’re going to have on our roads.”
The buses do not make noise, which Worel said will "improve the quality of life" for residents and tourists, compared to the often noisy, traditional diesel buses.
Robert Simmons, the deputy director of the Governor's Office of Energy Development, said he hopes Park City's decision will set an example for other cities.
“As people come here from across the world, they get to see the committment of the communities to innovation, commitment to finding solutions for our air quality and commitment to advancing these critical projects,” Simmons said.
The buses were built by the California-based company Proterra, which builds battery-electric vehicles.
Ryan Popple, CEO of the company, said the Park City buses were the fastest deployment they have worked on, but they are also "some of the most beautiful vehicles we've built," he said, adding "they are the Cadillac of buses," with Wi-Fi and USB ports.
Because the buses are made of carbon fiber and "advanced composite materials," they will outlast other buses in harsh temperatures, according to Popple. "This technology is a really good fit for this environment."
The buses are free for Park City residents and visitors, and will run along state Route 224 from Kimball Junction to Park City Old Town Transit Center, with stops at Fresh Market and Canyons Resort.