Transportation Planning Partnerships to Enhance National Parks and Gateway Communities

Focus Area

Environmental Considerations in Planning






Under $99k


Under 1 year

Research Idea Scope

Problem Statement: The National Park System includes 391 sites covering more than 84 million acres.  These sites receive some 300 million annual visitors.  Transportation has always been an integral part of park visits – form horses to railroads, to open-topped touring coaches, to automobiles, to ferries, to scenic roadways, to hiking and biking.  Congested roads, overcrowded parking lots, exhaust fumes, and vehicles blocking scenic vistas all detract from the park experience.  Over the past decade, the Nation Park Service (NPS) and other federal land management agencies have been working with state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and other agencies responsible for transportation in and around many national parks to address these concerns.


New shuttle bus services, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), off-site parking facilities, and roadway improvements represent just a few examples of recent projects.  New bus systems have been implemented in Zion National Park, Acadia National Park, Fort Clatsop Nation Monument, the Presidio in Golden Gate Nation Recreation Area, Colonial National Historic Park sites, and other parks.  The new Independence Transportation Center and motor coach parking area were important elements in the remaking of the Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia.  Examples of roadway projects underway include Dale Drive in the Presidio, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.


Planning these and other transportation improvements is more challenging given the diverse agencies and stakeholder groups involved.  To date, no research has been conducted examining the experience with different planning approaches, the benefits of coordinated planning efforts, and the results of these activities.  This project will start to address this void by providing a case study synthesis of best practice examples of planning partnerships among federal, state, regional, and local agencies addressing transportation issues in and around national parks.  The role of private non-profit groups, local businesses, and national corporations will also be examined.


Research Objective:  This project will examine case study examples of transportation partnerships among state departments of transportation, MPOs, transit agencies, local communities, and the NPS and other federal land management and transportation agencies.  The case studies will be selected to provide a mix of the issues, project types, institutional arrangements, and funding approaches.  The result from the case studies will be summarized to provide best practice approaches to addressing the unique transportation issues facing national parks and gateway communities.  Topics to be addressed include the roles of the different agencies, the institutional arrangements, the public involvement process, funding approaches, and the environmental review process.  The results will be of use and benefit to personnel at state departments of transportation, transit agencies, MPOs, local communities, NPS, FHWA, FTA, and other federal agencies.

Suggested By

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