National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
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Lewis and Clark Explorer Shuttle

Description: As the bicentennial anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition continues this year, managers of historic sites along the 200-year-old trail began preparing for expanded celebrations and the expected 1.5 million visitors anticipated between 2004 and 2006. In partnership with the Sunset Empire Transportation District and the National Park Service, the communities of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington, developed new transit connections between their celebrated venues for those eager to follow the historic events.

The partnership began in 2001 when in anticipation of the growing number of visitors for the bicentennial anniversary, the Sunset Empire Transportation District and the National Park Service conducted an area traffic study. The study concluded that the existing infrastructure was inadequate to handle the number of tourists anticipated for the celebration. Park facilities were small and scarce, parking was limited and the narrow two-lane roads, and highways connecting the area's towns and historic sites had limited capacity.

Plans began for a combination park-and-ride/education center and an area shuttle service to Fort Clatsop National Memorial, newly expanded and authorized as the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Park, and surrounding historic sites. The two-county shuttle system would pick up visitors from area campgrounds and other launching points along the route, and connect them with 20 Lewis and Clark sites from Long Beach Washington, to Cannon Beach, Oregon.

A $2.5 million Federal Transit Authority grant funded the purchase of additional buses, and the construction of a transit center and additional shuttle parking in Astoria. Two million dollars in NPS Alternative Transportation Funds assisted in funding the planning and construction of an alternative transit hub at a new site in the park, Netul Landing. The State of Oregon provided $500,000 in new signage and traveler information for the shuttle system.

The Denver Service Center through its Alternative Transportation Program, and the Federal Highway Administration through its Federal Lands Program, led the planning effort. Several alternatives were examined in the environmental assessment including expansion of the park's existing parking lot and the creation of the park's own shuttle system. After discussions with stakeholders, NPS decided to work with the existing regional transit provider to expand existing service to the park and other Lewis and Clark sites.

The new shuttle system coincided with the development of a new intermodal facility in Astoria. As part of the facility, Sunset Empire would serve Clatsop County, Oregon and connect with Pacific Transit in Pacific County, Washington, Astoria's historic waterfront trolley, Amtrak's motor coach to Portland and local taxi service.

Once the Bicentennial's enormity of scale and impact came into focus, shuttle planners envisioned the new transit center system hub. Merging plans and efforts leveraged resources for both passenger mobility and visitor exploration. The event planning came to involve a coordinated, multifaceted community-based transit planning process, with multiple stakeholders and diverse investment.

"Through the planning process for the shuttle bus service, we determined there was already a robust regional transit system in the area--one that should be taken advantage of instead of building a parallel new system," said Chip Jenkins, Superintendent of the park.

The Lewis and Clark Explorer Shuttle began operations in Summer 2004 and will continue to operate during the 2005 and 2006 summer seasons. The shuttle system is jointly operated by the Sunset Empire Transportation District and the Pacific Transit System.

The cost for drivers and gas for service to Fort Clatsop were paid for through a $2 per person transportation fee charged to all park visitors during the summer. Remaining costs were funded by the Sunset Empire Transit District through a local tax and a variety of grants.

Visitation to Fort Clatsop required a Timed Entry Ticket during the peak visitor season, June 14 - Labor Day 2004. Visitors obtained tickets in advance by calling the park or getting online. The $5 ticket allowed visitors to ride the shuttle to Fort Clatsop and visit the park. Entry times were scheduled to alleviate the impact of too many visitors at once. Visitors could stay as long as they wanted.

The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Association, which included the NPS, received a $35,000 grant from the Community Transportation Assistance Association (CTAA) to create a marketing plan for the new shuttle system. A Denver design firm, Nobel Erikson, Inc., was chosen to develop the marketing campaign which began in 2003.

Representatives from the bicentennial committees, Fort Clatsop, the National Park Service, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon State Parks, Sunset Empire Transportation District and Pacific Transit provided input on how to best market the shuttle system. All agreed that the Bicentennial Commemoration would best be experienced on public transit. The marketing campaign was essential to bring awareness to the region's transportation alternatives, build ridership on the new shuttle system and enhance the visitor experience.

Transit was a unifying vehicle to carry the park's message: to experience the exploration, get out of your car and ride The Explorer. The message was found on roadside signage (bus stops, park-in-ride), on the NPS website, Explorer on the NPS website, Explorer tips and information from hotels and restaurants. Explorer graphics adorned interpretive panels at Netul Landing. The same theme played on site markers, event logos, commemorative letter head and a postage stamp. Transit was not simply a connection to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial; the Explorer Shuttle was part of the experience.

Geographic area covered: Originally, Fort Clatsop National Memorial was 125-acres and located approximately 5 miles south of Astoria, Oregon near the mouth of the Columbia River.

The new Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks includes Dismal Nitch, also known as the Megler Rest Area, Station Camp, Cape Disappointment State Park, all in Washington state, Fort Clatsop, The Fort To Sea Trail, Netul Landing, Salt Works and Fort Stevens and Ecola state parks in Oregon.

The Explorer Shuttle connects 20 Lewis and Clark sites in the region including Fort Clatsop to communities from Long Beach, Washington to Cannon Beach, Oregon.

List partners and relationships: Sunset Empire Transportation District, Pacific Transit, The Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon State Parks, the Community Transportation Association, Nobel Erickson Inc, and the National Park Service.

Accomplishments to date:

  1. Because of the bicentennial anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the transit system has become one of the most comprehensive in Oregon.
  2. The Lewis and Clark Explorer Shuttle System generated 30 new transportation positions.
  3. Through the local Lewis and Clark Bicentennial organizing group the park produced about 200 banners that are now hanging from the light poles in Astoria, Seaside and nearby communities. The banner features the Explorer logo with the word WELCOME across the top. The graphics were converted to posters that the park's association is selling.
  4. At the request of the park, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Volpe National Research Center conducted an in depth evaluation of the shuttle system. This evaluation included analyzing ridership and traffic data, on-site evaluations, interviews with park and partner staff (e.g. bus drivers, chambers of commerce visitor center staff, etc.) and a survey of park shuttle users. The evaluation found that the system worked well, achieved most of the park goals and should continue with some modifications. Two results are of particular note; 97% of park visitors surveyed said that they had a good to excellent trip to the park (similar results were reported in a previous survey when no shuttle operated). Approximately 70% of park visitors said that the park should continue to keep the visitor center parking lots closed and provide access via shuttle. The evaluation recommended elimination of the timed ticket reservation system, which the park is doing.

Key success factors:

  1. Transit providers -- Sunset Empire Transportation District and Pacific Transit -- brought established service and experience to the project, and recognized an opportunity for expanding ridership.
  2. Discovering the character of the area was key to marketing the Lewis and Clark Explorer Shuttle. Consensus building was important. It was vital that the community be part of the process.
  3. With diverse involvement came an accurate and understood portrayal of the community. It also provided the much needed buy-in and ownership of an image of itself. Surrounding cities in the area are now requesting banners with their name above the new logo. The marketing campaign captures the character of the place and elevates the image of public transit as a means of maintaining that character.

Frustrations: Policy is not being coordinated at the national level which makes it difficult to implement project - you have to go through multiple tracks for approval from the regional to the national levels.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Be really clear on the core things that the park is trying to achieve and the core things that the partners are trying to achieve, and know what's negotiable and what's not.
  2. Just because one arm of the organization says yes to a project, doesn't necessarily mean you have approval for the project. Important to have approval from all affected entities.

What would you do differently next time: Nothing.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): Visit the park's website at

For more information:

Name: Chip Jenkins
Affiliation: Superintendent, Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Park
Phone/Fax: 503-861-4401

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements _X_; Facility Management __; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services _X_; Transportation _X_; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism _X_; Community Relations _X_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Chip Jenkins Date posted: 1/19/05
Phone: 503-861-4401

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