Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, infrastructure - vehicle, land use - planning, policy - parking, mode - mass transit, mode - car


Visitor transportation systems, Travel patterns, Transportation planning, Transit vehicle operations, Transit operations, Transit, Traffic patterns, Traffic engineering, Recreational facilities, Public transit, Parks, Parking places, Parking facilities, Parking areas, National parks, Mass transit, Local transit, Case studies, Car parks


Transportation problems stemming from expanding park visitation are a major concern of national park system officials. Visitor use during peak seasons strain the capacity of visitor facilities, park roads, and parking facilities and threaten sensitive natural and cultural resources. This article focuses on meeting the needs of visitors and the alternative means of transporting those visitors. Well-conceived visitor transportation systems (VTS) can provide better viewing opportunities and interpretation of the resources being viewed, eliminating the need for individual travel in private vehicles. Seasonal variations and weekend travel peaks significantly impact the overall cost-effectiveness of VTS solutions that involve major investments in equipment, structures, and facilities. For VTS to succeed, parking facilities must be conveniently located and adequately sized. Four transit options for use in the national park system are discussed: buses, rail transit systems, automated guideway transit, and special purpose systems. Along with VTS services, intelligent transportation systems can be applied to provide visitors with advance information regarding traffic and parking conditions, lodging/campground facilities, weather, activity opportunities, and transportation options. The results of ongoing VTS studies at Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Denali National Parks will be released shortly.