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Buses and Shuttles in National Parks

Buses and Shuttles

As visits to national parks continue to increase, some parks suffer from the increased use of private autiomobiles: traffic congestion, parking problems, exhaust and noise pollution. The resource suffers, and the visitor experience is diminished.

Several units of the National Park Service have implemented Buses and shuttle systems to alleviate the impacts of private automobiles. Three park unit examples are detailed below; other uses of Buses and shuttles are included in this site's Library.

A Bold Idea for Zion National Park
Zion National Park Bus

In the early 1990s an escalated number of visitors to the Zion Canyon made it increasingly difficult for visitors to find parking along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. In 1999, the annual visitation was 2.4 million. On an average day during the peak season up to 5,000 cars including tour buses were using the Scenic Drive. Only 400 parking spots were available along the scenic roadway and as a consequence visitors typically double and triple parked destroying vegetation.

Several alternatives were considered by Park officials prior to implementing the existing shuttle program. Alternatives considered but rejected included increasing parking in the Canyon, closing the scenic drive once the parking filled, and providing a voluntary shuttle system.

The selected alternative included the implementation of a mandatory shuttle system using propane-powered vehicles during the peak tourist season.

The mandatory shuttle system began operation on May 26, 2000 allowing only the Park's shuttle Buses to operate north of the Zion Canyon Visitor Center during the peak summer season. An exception has been given to allow employees and guests of the Upper Lodge to continue using the Scenic Road although they are encouraged to use the shuttle system once their vehicle is parked.

Parks Transportation, Inc. currently operates 30 NPS-owned propane-powered shuttle buses. Approximately 20 of these buses operate exclusively within the park with attached trailers capable of holding a total of around 66 passengers each. The shuttles have operated daily from the beginning of April though the end of October since 2000. Personal vehicle access is only permitted from November to late March on the Scenic Drive except for Upper Lodge employees and guests.

Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park Bus

Grand Canyon's shuttle system began operating in 1974 with the goals of reducing parking congestion on the South Rim and improving the visitor experience. The voluntary shuttle system, which operates year round, consists of several routes and experiences approximately 4.5 million visitor boardings annually.

 The National Park Service (NPS) has purchased twenty new low-floor compressed natural gas (CNG) powered transit buses to be used as part of the visitor transportation system on the South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park.

These buses will replace the park's aging diesel and liquid natural gas (LNG) buses. With the addition of these new buses, Grand Canyon's entire visitor transportation system will become wheelchair accessible and will be operated using a 100 percent dedicated fleet of 29 CNG powered buses.

The replacement of the park's older diesel buses with CNG powered buses will further enhance the visitor experience by substantially reducing air pollutants and noise levels. The General Service Administration estimates that this bus replacement will result in the following annual reduction of tailpipe emission pollutants within the park:
. 18.5 tons/year of non-methane hydrocarbons
. 176 tons/year of nitrous oxides
. 10 tons/year of diesel particulate matter (or soot)

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park Bus From June 23 to early October, the Island Explorer buses provide fare-free transit service between park destinations, local communities, and the Bar Harbor-Hancock County Regional Airport.

Regularly scheduled buses stop at specific destinations in the park-including campgrounds, carriage road entrances, and many trailheads. You can also flag down buses along their route; drivers will pick up passengers anywhere it is safe to stop.

The propane-powered Island Explorer buses-also equipped with bicycle racks-help reduce traffic congestion, parking, and air pollution problems on the island.

The Island Explorer was established in the late 1990s as a unique partnership between:

  1. National Park Service
  2. U.S. Department of Transportation
  3. Maine Department of Transportation
  4. Friends of Acadia
  5. Six municipalities
  6. Private businesses

Downeast Transportation, Inc., a nonprofit organization, operates the fleet of propane-powered buses. Park entrance fees help support the Island Explorer bus system.




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