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    Intelligent Transportation Systems

    Trails Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)

     

    ITS Status and Outlook
    Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) have gained widespread use nationally, improving the safety and efficiency of travel. In the national parks, the availability of real-time information on delays from road construction, weather-related road conditions, and transit arrival times enable a more enjoyable visitor experience.

    About half of the estimated 150 million annual NPS web site visitors seek travel and trip planning information. Several parks that have roads subject to winter closures use web sites to alert visitors to road conditions. Park information radio systems have been used for decades to provide visitors with up-to-date information about the status of park attractions, parking, road construction, and general roadway information. Electronic entry and payment systems also help alleviate traffic backups and congestion at park entrance stations.

    To learn more about Intelligent Transportation Systems, review the Cape Cod National
    Seashore Intelligent Transportation Systems Implementation Plan (Final Report)
    , published in March 2011. This 74-page report provides an excellent overview of the various ITS components, and the process the Cape Cod National Seashore staff undertook to study and implement ITS
    in the Park. It describes a broad array of stakeholder agencies and organizations who participated in the planning stages, and how they were engaged early in the project. The report looks at the existing conditions of demographics, population, traffic congestion, parking and transit systems, and emergency management procedures. Next, challenges that will be addressed through the implementation of ITS are examined, including parking, electronic payment, and automated entry systems.

    Finally, recommendations are made for a deployment strategy to complete system planning, procurement, and execution of the chosen Intelligent Transportation Systems, including an implementation timeline. The report concludes with an extensive bibliography of publications and studies pertaining to ITS and related factors, and an Appendix describing Federal Lands Interagency Passes.

    While this document pertains to a single park unit, it can act as a primer for the staff members of other NPS units in determining how best to use ITS. The file is a .pdf, 1.6mb.

    ITS Studies
    Recent studies show the value of enhancing ITS offerings in national park settings:

      1. A 1999-2003 Acadia Field Operational Test of ITS applications-conducted in cooperation with the FHWA and the Maine DOT-revealed that ITS yields benefits to visitors and parks alike. Eighty-six percent of visitors reported that ITS information helped relieve the stress or uncertainty of travel; 80% reported that the ITS electronic bus departure signs and stop announcement technologies made it easier to use the Island Explorer shuttle bus to get around. Importantly, ITS was a key motivating factor in visitor decisions to ride the shuttle rather than drive their cars.
      2. A 2005 baseline inventory of ITS in national parks revealed that 59 parks in 20 states were involved in needs assessment, planning, deployment, or ITS operation. For example, data gathered during 2005 and 2006 at Golden Gate National Recreation Area indicates that parking information provided via ITS signs to visitors on U.S. Highway 101 en-route to Muir Woods can prompt up to a four-fold increase in use of the remote park-and-ride shuttle bus when parking areas are full.
      3. ITS is also playing a prominent role in efforts to mitigate traffic congestion and travel delay at Glacier National Park during the planned eight-year reconstruction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Construction mitigation plans call for a 20% reduction in peak period vehicular traffic on the road to ensure that visitors transiting the road will not experience more than 30 minutes of delay.
    ITS at National Parks ITS Options
    The cost of ITS at national parks can vary widely depending on the range of ITS services and the size of the park. However, based on the fairly robust ITS deployments at Acadia and Glacier National Parks, $2 million is a rough average cost estimate for ITS in rural parks. Deploying ITS along parkways, particularly in urban areas, would involve greater expense, but would offer significant benefits to park visitors and other travelers.