Image by J. Stephen Conn via Flickr
The Mobilizing the Region blog from the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area has an interesting blog entry about America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.
Getting to “America’s Great Outdoors”
One of the major points made in the entry is that the Obama Administration is holding get meetings about the great outdoors but there is almost no talk about transportation issues when it comes to the "Great Outdoors".
One of the biggest problems our great outdoors are facing right now is transportation. While many national parks have shuttle systems and other tour options, only Utah's Zion Park has gone to the extreme of banning cars because of how many traffic jams is being created by automobiles in the park.
On the other hand the Grand Canyon proposed building a light rail system to make it easier to shuttle around the park but was stopped by conservative politicians in the Grand Canyon state.
However, while some parks such as Zions may be dealing with transportation within the park, most parks and the administration is doing nothing about getting people TO the national parks and other outdoor activities.
For example, while have to use the shuttle buses to travel through Zions in the peak season, unless you take one of the tour buses from the Las Vegas area your only option in reaching Zions by automobile. Arches on the other has the opposite problem. While there is private carriers that provide service from the Salt Lake area to Moab, the only way to access Arches without a car is by escorted tours. The problem with escorted tours is they give you little freedom and can be very costly.
Yellowstone National Park is another example of a park that is having issues with the number of automobiles using it. However, once again the non-automobile options are very limited. While they have restarted bus service around the park, the options for getting there is limited. You can use AllTrans from Salt Lake City to Jackson you have to take a tour from there. Until a few years ago Greyhound offered a daily bus from Salt Lake City to Bozeman via West Yellowstone but that route died when Greyhound went through one of its reorganizations a few years ago.
Glacier and Yosemite are probably two of the best options if you are doing a national park car free. To visit Glacier you can take Amtrak to West or East Glacier and take the shuttle options for there. Yosemite on the other hand has train and bus service to Merced where you can take Yosemite transportation to the park from there.
Lets take a look closer to home. Previously I have gone over my problems with the UTA's ski bus service. However, the service does provide a good function by getting people to ski areas and reduce the need to drive especially during the dangerous conditions that occur in winter.
The question is, what do people do the rest of the year to reach the mountains? UTA does provide two round trips a day up to the Alta/Snowbird area when the ski buses are not running, they are useless for most people trying to access recreation areas. For example when I go hiking near Brighton there is no option except to drive.
While it is great to encourage people to use the great outdoors, we also need to look at how people are going to travel and get around once they get there.