Thursday, October 25, 2012

Arches Trying to Cure 50 Years of Growing Pains

National Park Service officials are aware of the lack of parking in Arches. They are exploring options to improve a transportation infrastructure that was designed 50 years ago for an annual visitation of 75,000, but now sees more than 1 million people passing through the gate each year.

The goal of the "Alternative Transportation System and Congestion Management Study" is to reduce traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of transportation on the parks’ valuable resources. There is a target of diverting 25 percent of intended traffic in the park. That does not mean reducing the number of visitors, only the number of vehicles in Arches.

Arches officials are allowed to charge a transportation fee, but are "sensitive" about increasing the cost of visiting the popular Utah park.

Options explored during discussions on ways to reduce traffic in Arches ranged from implementing a reservation system for entry into the park and allowing drive-up visitors to enter when the slots were not full to running a shuttle only to the Windows section of the park to a "congestion management only strategy" that diverts cars away from high-traffic areas through communications with park visitors and local partners.

The challenge of a joint effort between Moab and the national park would be figuring out a way to collect a fare at the park entrance. Parks across the country have different ways of handling fee collection for shuttle riders, and it is not likely something that will halt the possibility of a partnership.

Park officials will continue to explore options for reducing the number of cars in Arches, but, like many other National Park Service superintendents across the country Cannon suggests she will wait to see what happens with the presidential election before making any firm decisions. Salt Lake Tribune