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Co-op Bus Service Completes Third Season in Yellowstone N.P.

The Linx summer bus service that moves riders through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks and their gateway communities, wrapped up it's third year at the end of September. The Linx service connects the Wyoming gateway towns of Jackson and Cody with the Montana gateway towns of Gardiner and West Yellowstone.

Linx is a locally-owned member cooperative of transportation providers and investors that is operating a regional transportation network to serve the greater Yellowstone region. Linx is coordinating the stops and schedules of its member-providers and making this information available to the general public on one online platform.

Linx Sales Manager Collette Rinehart said the system transported nearly 3,000 riders both inside and outside the park in 2013, with hikers, cyclists, concession employees and international guests as its primary customers. Riders this year paid between $25-50 to ride one-way between gateway cities, and riders inside Yellowstone National Park paid $25 for an all-day pass. The two largest park concessioners—Xanterra Parks and Resorts and Delaware North Companies—secured large numbers of Linx day passes to help their off-duty employees enjoy a variety of park destinations and shop in gateway communities.

Linx interim Manager Brown said the three-year pilot program has proven that it is possible to run a public transportation system in Yellowstone and beyond, “even with bison jams, spotty cell service, and delays due to fires, weather and auto accidents.”

“This fall we will share our rider statistics with all those interested in Yellowstone Park operations and discuss how the Linx bus system can improve regional mobility while reducing auto emissions and congestion,” Brown said. “Our co-op business model is designed so both public and private entities can more effectively finance, promote, and operate public transit across three states and two national parks—and it is starting to work.”

For more information, visit the Linx web site at http://www.linx.coop.

Muir Woods N.P. Parking Options

Drawing more than one million visitors each year, the Muir Woods National Park is facing some tough choices on how to address parking options.

Getting to the park can be an ordeal, especially on busy weekends, and parking at the site can be challenging to find. Motorists often end up parking on shoulders outside the main lot along Muir Woods Road. So for the first time in more than a decade, the park service has begun discussing options that could include a parking reservation system, similar to the tickets needed to ride a ferry to Alcatraz.

The proposed solution includes a shuttle that would run between a new 180-vehicle parking lot on Panoramic Highway, near the Dias Ridge trailhead, and Muir Woods. The plan has received mixed reviews from property owners near the Park.

A PowerPoint presentation (distributed as a .pdf) describing elements of the plan can be downloaded at this link.

New Emissions Limits Issued for Yellowstone N.P.

The National Park Service (NPS) has established a new regulation to phase in new air and sound emission requirements for snowmobiles and snowcoaches operating in the Yellowstone National Park, and has changed the way it counts the number of such vehicles allowed in the park. The regulation went into effect Nov. 22. The new regulations are being hailed by some as a historic event that could end decades of conflict on the topic.

The new regulation replaces the former concept of a fixed maximum number of vehicles allowed in the park each day with a new, more flexible concept of "transportation events." A transportation event is defined as "one group of snowmobiles (maximum group size of 10, seasonal average of seven beginning in the 2015-2016 season) or one snowcoach," and allows larger group sizes "if commercial tour operators use vehicles that meet voluntary enhanced emission standards." Within an allowable number of transportation events, commercial tour operators have the opportunity to combine snowcoach and snowmobile trips in a way that protects park resources and provides flexibility to respond to fluctuations in visitation demand.

Up to 110 total transportation events are authorized each day. Commercial tour operators may decide whether to use their daily allocation for snowmobiles or snowcoaches, but no more than 50 transportation events each day may be comprised of snowmobiles, the new regulation states. Up to 46 of the 50 allowable snowmobile transportation events may be commercially guided and up to four may be non-commercially guided. In either case, all snowmobile transportation events must be led by a guide.

The NPS says this regulation reflects a "new management paradigm" which it plans to implement over the next four winter seasons, beginning with 2013-2014, so the park and tour operators can adjust to the new emission requirements and the new method of managing vehicles by transportation events.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) asked the NPS to require snowmobiles to adopt "Best Available Technology," emissions standards during the 2015-2016 season, instead of the 2017-2018 season as originally proposed. The NPS agreed to this change, noting that snowmobiles and snowcoaches that meet the new emission standards are already available.

More information about the new regulation can be found at the Current Management and Planning section of Yellowstone's web site: http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/currentmgmt.htm

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