In the upcoming election, Kane County voters will have the opportunity to vote Yes or No on Proposition 10 to create the Zion Area Public Transit District.
If Proposition 10 passes, the new transit district would set up and operate electric shuttle buses from Kanab to Zion National Park.
Kane County’s plan for the first phase is to operate 12 electric shuttle buses. The capacity of each bus would be limited to 16 passengers. Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain explained larger vehicles are not feasible, as they must be able to pass each other in the narrow Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel as well as navigating the Park’s hairpin turns.
Chamberlain estimates the program will create 25-30 jobs, mostly shuttle drivers.
The Zion shuttle system is part of the larger East Zion development, which will include lodges, retail shops, and a county-operated visitor center at the east entrance to Zion National Park.
The stated main reason for the shuttle buses is to reduce crowding in Zion. Parking is limited in the Park. A public shuttle service gives visitors an alternative to driving. Shuttle stops on the east side of the park could increase trail access and spread out visitors.
The purchase of shuttle busses, building shuttle stops, and installing charging stations will cost around $10 million.
Kane County is seeking funding from the federal infrastructure bill, that - when passed by Congress - will allocate money to states for transportation projects. Chamberlain said that Kane County will not move forward until outside funding has been secured, and he “is confident that this will happen.”
The shuttle program would primarily serve visitors to Zion, rather than local needs. The creation of a transit district could potentially lay the foundation for building out a broader regional transportation system in southwest Utah. People in Kane County, especially the elderly unable to drive themselves, currently have limited transportation options.
The National Park Service (NPS) has given its support to Kane County’s transit district operating electric shuttles within Zion between the east entrance and the Park’s visitor center, according to Chamberlain.
However, the NPS has not approved extending the county’s shuttle service up the main canyon to Zion Lodge, where the NPS already operates shuttles. Zion National Park is currently replacing its own aging shuttle fleet, but has faced delays due to insufficient funding.
Kane County purchased a pilot shuttle bus to test the feasibility of an electric shuttle from Kanab to Zion’s visitor center - and back - without being recharged.
The first test drive will take place this fall, so stay tuned.