Moab area developer Michael Liss was elected chair of the Moab Transit Authority Study Committee on Tuesday, May 15 at its organizational meeting where he moderated a lively conversation, asking both the appointed members and interested citizens in attendance, “why would you like to get involved ... and what should we focus on?”
Member Joe Kingsley recounted the missed opportunity of not building the bypass around Moab two decades ago.
“UDOT budgeted money for two bridges over the Colorado River, but the community never agreed to a plan,” Kingsley said.
The group agreed that there is now a unique opportunity to get ahead of the transportation issues, with a focus equally on residents and visitors. Not just for Spanish Valley, Arches National Park and recreation areas, but to connect Moab more broadly. Currently there is no bus, rail or air service to Salt Lake City.
At the meeting, Joe Kingsley, a Moab resident with a history of working on national transportation issues at Amtrak and American Airlines, set the tone, saying people should be able to “come to Moab without a car.” The benefits of e-bikes were also discussed. Airport Director Judd Hill took that concept one step further, explaining, “there will be flying Ubers by 2023.”
Aaron Lindberg of Poison Spider Bicycles said he became interested in the possibility of tourists not using automobiles when a group flew into Moab, took a shuttle directly to Poison Spider and got on their rental bikes.
“They didn’t need a car the whole time they were in Moab,” Lindberg said.
Emily Campbell, a member of the Grand County Planning Commission, spoke about how public transportation can help attract millennials and support elderly residents, creating affordable housing corridors for people who now don’t need a car, and creating easy access to shopping, culture and recreation. Moab City Council Member Karen Guzman-Newton echoed the optimistic sentiment, saying, “we don’t need knee-jerk solutions, let’s set goals for 10 to 20 years from now.”
Grand County Economic Development and Planning Director Zacharia Levine invited transportation professionals and academics in Salt Lake City to the meeting via teleconference to give the committee background information, and talked about the correlation and causality of transportation systems to quality of life, sustainability goals and economic vitality.
“Affordable housing is also very important to this discussion,” Levine said. “My academic research informs me that housing and transportation are undoubtedly the top two issues that gateway resort regions and communities are facing, places similar to Moab. These are not challenges in isolation but are intimately connected.”
The majority of the discussion at the meeting was about change. What will that change be? What is rural? What is our community character? What kind of change is most desirable?
“We need to stop thinking about change as only about the number of people who live here,” Liss said. “The transportation issues seem to touch on all these aspects of change.”
The group agreed to meet again June 19 to define a mission statement for the nascent organization, to begin a deeper look at the transportation options in a rapidly changing technological environment, and set specific timelines for getting solutions formulated, funded and implemented.