Whether it's a delay in making turns on the best snow on earth, breathing bad air or dealing with traffic getting in and out of our homes, many of us have been directly affected by long lines of cars headed up the Cottonwood Canyons. As a resident of the Sandy area, I have serious concerns about the inconvenience, environmental and safety issues posed by these long lines of traffic.

So, when Councilman Richard Snelgrove recently announced a plan for addressing vehicle congestion in the Cottonwood Canyons — slugging — I took note. Slugging is the practice of a driver of a vehicle picking up random passengers from a line of people and carpooling to a mutual destination. This plan is not a bad idea by itself, but it falls short on the details needed to solve the traffic problems that besiege the canyons.

The success of slugging in cities like San Francisco and Washington relies heavily on a balance of infrastructure, convenience and incentives. For example, both of those cities have a large commuter traffic base, dedicated HOV lanes and numerous potential pickup spots with adequate parking. Those features don’t exist for the Cottonwood Canyons.

Designated preferred parking at the ski resorts was also mentioned as an incentive for slugging. But resorts already provide carpool parking, and traffic congestion is still an issue. In addition, picking up extra skiers will require vehicles to have sufficient space for ski equipment and gear — requiring much more room than the typical commuter briefcase. Slugging may eliminate a handful of cars, but it’s not going to contribute significantly enough to solve the traffic issues plaguing our canyons.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the suggestion of slugging is not that it’s a bad idea; it’s that it detracts from a larger, necessary conversation. Canyon congestion is a serious problem, and it’s only going to get worse. The population of the Wasatch Front is predicted to double by 2050. Serious problems require serious solutions. Instead of sound bites, we need leaders who are visionary and willing to work hard to find meaningful solutions.

Admittedly, there is no single or simple cure to this complex problem. If there was, there would be no need for the host of leaders and interested parties participating in the Mountain Accord process. The complexity of that process, however, only highlights the limited scope of an idea like slugging. Rather than focusing on a glorified form of car pooling, we should focus on an idea promoted by Mountain Accord representatives: “getting people out of cars and onto transit.”

That kind of solution, however, requires government involvement. Real solutions, as being considered by Mountain Accord and others, must come from thoughtful consideration, input from various constituencies and a responsible assessment of costs and environmental stewardship.

For example, a solution such as expanded bus transit, including Rapid Bus, appears to have solid potential. Coupled with expanded park-and-ride options spread throughout the county, expanded bus transit has the potential of significantly contributing to a system of incentives that encourages visitors to not just carpool, but leave their cars near their homes. Car pooling is great, and it should be encouraged, along with other incentives to get people out of single-occupancy vehicles. Slugging, however — although a nice idea — simply won’t do enough.

Population growth is coming. Skier day-visit growth is coming. Traffic growth is coming. We need visionary leaders who understand the complexity of these issues and who are willing to engage in strategic long-term planning to find real solutions to our current problems and the problems on our horizon.

Catherine Kanter is an attorney, a land planning commissioner on the Salt Lake County Mountainous Planning District Commission and a former member of the Granite Community Council. She is currently a candidate for the Salt Lake County Council. She lives in the Sandy area near the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon.