Alternative transportation systems (ATS) help park units minimize resource impacts where traffic volume on existing roadway infrastructure has reached or is over capacity. These systems are important to the National Park Service (NPS) and its visitors: they contribute to preserving resources, including improvements to air quality, soundscapes, and reduced wildlife/auto collisions. These systems also demonstrate leadership in using alternative transportation to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
NPS currently has 147 alternative transportation systems in 72 park units nationwide. The systems are provided through contractual, concession and/or partnership agreements. Twenty systems are owned and operated by the NPS, 97 are contracted by the NPS through concession contracts, 13 are operated by service contracts, and 17 are provided under cooperative agreements with public or private partners.
Alternative transportation systems in the NPS include a variety of vehicle types:
- 65 (44%) systems are shuttle/bus/van/tram
- 50 (34%) systems are boat/ferry
- 14 (10%) systems are snowcoaches
- 14 (9%) systems are planes
- 4 (3%) systems are trains/trolley
- 66% (175/264) of NPS-owned vehicles operate on alternative fuel, while 14% (79/562) of Non-NPS-owned vehicles operate on alternative fuel
Across the NPS, new ATS vehicles are "rolling ambassadors," exemplifying the NPS commitment to enhancing the visitor experience.
Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program (TRIP)
In 2006, the U.S. Congress created a program to fund capital and planning expenses for alternative transportation systems in national parks and public lands. Known as the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program (TRIP), this program was created in response to traffic congestion in and around national parks and other federal land areas. The TRIP program was repealed by Congress after the passage of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). MAP-21 spans fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
In 2006, Congress recognized the need for a dedicated source of funding based on the Federal Lands Alternative Transportation Systems Study (August 2001). The U.S. DOT identified NPS needs for both the short term period (2002-2010) and the long term period (2011-2020). The total need for the 20-year period was estimated at approximately $1.6 billion. Of this $1.6 billion, approximately 39 percent ($604 million) was required between 2001 and 2010, with the remaining 61 percent ($950 billion) required between 2011 and 2020. However, only $97 million was authorized for TRIP over a 6-year period to be competitively divided among four federal agencies. The NPS was awarded approximately $63 million creating an annual shortfall of more than $50 million over this six-year period of time.