New Transportation Legislation Tackles National Park Congestion

Date:   June 28, 2001
Contact:   Thomas Kiernan, National Parks Conservation Association President, 202-454-3332

New Transportation Legislation Tackles National Park Congestion

Washington, D.C. - A bipartisan group of senators today introduced legislation, the Transit in Parks Act, that would authorize $65 million annually for six years to develop new and expanded mass transit services, pedestrian walkways, and bike paths within and near the national parks and other public lands.

Led by Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Maryland), the bill includes Senators Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee), Max Baucus (D-Montana), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut), Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Charles Schumer (D-New York), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), and Jon Corzine (D-New Jersey) as original sponsors.

"Enacting this new transportation legislation will help bring relief to parks and visitors suffering from traffic congestion and choking on fumes," said National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) President Thomas Kiernan. "Reducing vehicular traffic in parks will contribute to healthier ecosystems and more pleasant visits."

The 385 units of the National Park System draw millions of visitors worldwide. Visitation this year may reach 300 million. But as the number of park visitors has increased over the years, national park budgets have failed to keep pace, causing visible stress on park resources and infrastructure. At Grand Canyon National Park, nearly 6,000 vehicles may arrive in a single summer day, competing for 2,400 parking spaces. At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most popular national park in the country, 10 million people annually crowd the park's limited roads, creating traffic jams and leaving behind clouds of exhaust fumes.

Several national parks and their surrounding communities have successfully implemented transportation systems that ease overcrowding and pollution. The town of Springdale, Utah won NPCA's prestigious Park Achievement Award this year for working with Zion National Park to install an environmentally friendly shuttle system that serves the park and town. Acadia National Park in Maine uses propane-powered shuttles that offer visitors and residents free transportation to hiking trails, beaches, and in-town shops. During its inaugural 1999 season, Acadia's Island Explorer shuttle buses carried more than 142,000 riders. In 2000, ridership increased 39 percent above 1999-carrying more than 3,000 people per day during the height of summer.

The Transit in Parks Act would provide funding for other national parks and public lands to adopt similar transportation systems or even pedestrian walkways, bike paths, and waterborne access. The National Park Service currently allocates $8.5 million annually for alternative transportation programs from a meager $165 million construction and road maintenance budget funded by the Federal Lands Highway Program.

"Let's preserve the national parks as parks--not as parking lots," Kiernan said.


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