US National Parks offer a look at eco-friendly transit
Americans may soon get a better glimpse into the future of green transportation by visiting a US national park.
Home Secretary Deb Haaland and Transportation Minister Pete Buttigieg signed a joint pledge on Wednesday to test some of the latest and most innovative travel technologies on public lands and improve the tourism experience for visitors.
Under the multi-million dollar pilot programs saved under the $1 trillion infrastructure law and other federal expenditures, visitors to national parks can view self-driving shuttle buses, along with electric scooters or bike stations and electric charging stations for zero-emissions cars. .
New real-time information in development via the app will inform visitors of road closures and parking availability, or provide a step-by-step guide to bus locations or share rides for those who want to leave their cars behind.
Yellowstone National Park, which received a record number of visitors this year, is expected to see some immediate changes, with other sites to follow.
“As we celebrate our public lands and the vast infrastructure that supports them, we are also recommitting our future endeavors to the goals of job creation, sustainability and innovation,” Haaland said. “Through these new initiatives, our teams will become global leaders at the intersection of transportation innovations and access to public spaces.”
Its management said it is striving to replace the National Park Service’s 20-year-old fleet with electric vehicles, a process that began earlier this year. In February, for example, park officials said they would seek to add 26 electric shuttles and 27 charging stations in Zion National Park in Utah with the help of a $33 million transportation grant.
Buttigieg said the joint initiative will “keep our most valuable national wonder accessible to all Americans.” He and Halland had planned to tour a lane expansion project on Wednesday for cyclists and pedestrians along the Potomac River in the nation’s capital.
The effort comes as America’s national parks have seen a surge in visits last year from pandemic-weary travelers looking for a wide-open escape. But this adds to the traffic congestion and potential stress on the surrounding environment.
Over the summer, Yellowstone was the first to begin limited testing of the eight-passenger robotic shuttles. The buses, which traveled 6 to 12 miles per hour and traveled within the Canyon Village campground and adjacent visitor lodging area, had a safety guard on board to pull the brakes in case of unexpected dangers. The park has had its busiest season ever with around 4.8 million visits so far in 2021. Due to the growing crowds, demand for vehicles is expected to exceed the park’s current capacity by 2023, with increased road capacity and parking already in peak months.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Act signed by President Joe Biden this week provides up to $1.5 billion annually for the National Park Service, plus $200 million annually in discretionary grants aimed in part at tackling climate change and protecting wildlife.
That’s on top of the $1.9 billion a year over five years Congress approved last year for long-delayed renovation projects in national parks, national forests and other sites that spurred recent construction across the country, including the expansion of the track in Washington.
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