Ecological transportation comes to U.S. national parks

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Americans will soon be able to better see the future of green transportation by visiting a U.S. national park.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday signed a joint commitment to test some of the newest and most innovative travel technologies on public land and improve the tourist experience for visitors.

Under the multimillion-dollar pilot programs made available by the $ 1 trillion infrastructure law and other federal spending, visitors to national parks could see self-driving buses, along with electric scooter or bicycle stations and electric charging stations. for emissions-free cars.

The new real-time information under development through the app would notify visitors about road closures and parking spaces, or provide a step-by-step guide to bus locations or shared travel for those who wish. leave your cars behind.

Yellowstone National Park, which has had a record number of visitors this year, is expected to see some of the most immediate changes, with other places to follow.

“As we celebrate our public lands and the great infrastructure that sustains them, we also re-engage our future efforts with the goals of job creation, sustainability, and innovation,” Haaland said. “Through these new initiatives, our teams will become world leaders at the intersection of innovations in transportation and access to public spaces.”

The Haaland department said it is working to replace its National Park Service ferry fleet from 20 years ago with electric vehicles, a process begun earlier this year. In February, for example, park officials said they would try to add 26 electric shuttles and 27 charging stations to Zion National Park in Utah with the help of a $ 33 million transportation grant.

Buttigieg said the joint initiative “will keep our most prized national wonders accessible and safe for all Americans.” He and Haaland on Wednesday planned a route for a project to widen trails for cyclists and pedestrians along the Potomac River in the country’s capital.

The effort comes when U.S. national parks have seen increases in visits last year by pandemic-tired travelers in search of the open-air shelter. But this adds to traffic congestion and potential stress to the surrounding environment.

During the summer, Yellowstone was the first to begin a limited test of eight-passenger automated shuttles. The shuttles, which ran at 6 to 12 miles per hour and traveled within the Canyon Village camp and adjoining visitor accommodation area, had a security guard on board to pull the brakes in case of unexpected dangers.

The park has experienced its busiest season to date with about 4.8 million visits so far in 2021. Due to growing congestion, vehicle demand is expected to exceed the park’s current capacity by 2023, with roads and parking already exceeding capacity in the peak months.

The bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden this week offers up to $ 1.5 billion a year for the National Park Service, as well as $ 200 million a year in discretionary grants designed in part to address climate change and protect life. wild.

This adds to the $ 1.9 billion a year for five years approved by Congress last year for long-delayed renovation projects in national parks, national forests and other places that have spurred recent construction across the country, including the widening the road to Washington.


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