Investigation into Transportation's Impact on Visitor Experience

Focus Area

Environmental Enhancements


Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

Background: Many people have speculated on the impact of transportation on visitor experience on public lands, but rigorous research has not yet addressed the question. Ridership surveys at individual national parks with new transit systems have shown that visitors approve of shuttles, but these surveys do not ask how the visitor experience has changed.  National parks with private vehicle restrictions report that visitors sight more wildlife because private vehicle traffic does not scare animals from the road.  Does the relationship of number of vehicles to number of wildlife sightings lend itself to quantification and analysis? Do wildlife fatalities correlate? What other ways does transportation affect visitor experience, and what transportation options lead to visitors’ greatest satisfaction with their experiences?

Objective: This research project will analytically define the link between transportation and visitor experience on public lands, identify specific interrelating aspects, and make recommendations based on best practices.  As another part of the purpose of this project, researchers will develop a dataset geared toward the interrelation of transportation and visitor experience.  Initial tasks will identify the current level of understanding of the relationship between transportation and visitor experience and existing data and research results that provide evidence of this relationship.  Researchers will then establish a methodology for analytically establishing the link between transportation and visitor experience.  Based on this methodology, researchers will gather and interpret data in a formal research report, interpret best practices, and develop recommendations for options that public land managers might consider.  These findings will appear in a straightforward guidebook for public land managers who might have little formal training in transportation theory and practice.  Researchers will submit the dataset gathered for this project for publicly availability.

Urgency and Payoff

The results of this study will help public land managers, public land transit operators, and gateway communities improve upon transportation’s impact on visitor experience by addressing concerns and enhancing positive attributes.  This study will raise awareness of the factors of interrelation between transportation and visitor use, provide an analytical basis for understanding and addressing that link, and result in best-practice recommendations sensitive to local context.

Suggested By

ADA40, Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands Committee, as specified in the TRB Research Needs Database, 2009. (posted 7/2007)