SALT LAKE CITY — Improving bus service in the Cottonwood canyons will be the top priority for transportation planners in the coming year.

Officials with Mountain Accord told lawmakers on the Transportation Interim Committee Wednesday how they plan to work with the Utah Transit Authority to make service more frequent and convenient for riders. It is part of multipronged approach to mitigate traffic congestion and environmental concerns in two of the most popular Wasatch Front recreation areas, said Laynee Jones, Mountain Accord's executive director.

"(It's) improvements to bus service, parking management, getting people to carpool and real-time communication so people can know what's going on," she said.

The solutions currently under development are to be implemented during the upcoming winter and next, as well as next summer, she said.

Making transit as attractive as driving a personal vehicle will take some strategic marketing and potential changes to canyon access for buses, she added, as well as making transit more cost-effective.

"It's a bunch of little things that we've got to do (to make things work)," Jones said. "We're going to see some innovation."

Among the issues that will need to be addressed are preserving watershed, open spaces and ridgelines; focusing development in urban areas and the bases of ski areas; accommodating and managing growth; increasing transit use, walking and biking; as well as decreasing single occupancy vehicle use, providing year-round choices to residents and visitors, she noted.

Currently, there are too many cars in the canyons, Jones said, resulting in parking overflow at resorts, trailheads and at the base of the canyons, creating congestion that is being worsened by population growth and not enough bus service.

Figuring out how to pay for the improvements is a critical matter to address, she said, but for now UTA is consolidating some underused bus routes to provide the needed vehicles to service the canyons at no extra cost.

"We're doing more with the resources that we have," Jones said.

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