In 2001, the National Park Foundation (NPF) established the Transportation Scholars program, granting annual fellowships to emerging transportation professionals with substantial knowledge and expertise in transportation planning with parks and corresponding transportation-related concerns, such as pollution or congestions, that can be major detractors of the overall park visitor experience. Nearly 50 national parks benefitted from the program, with some parks hosting multiple scholars, such as Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Transportation Scholars built partnerships between parks and their communities, worked across jurisdictional boundaries, gained an appreciation for the need of alternative transportation projects in our parks, and developed a first-hand knowledge of the efforts undertaken by NPS to preserve our national treasures while also working to solve current transportation issues.
Trolley Extension in Lowell
With the help of an NPF Transportation Scholar, Lowell National Historical Park worked with several local partners to expand the park’s visitor trolley system, creating a heritage transit system in downtown Lowell, Massachusetts. The extension enhanced the city’s existing transit services for trips within the downtown historic district and reduced the need for short automobile trips within downtown and addressed the demand for trips between the downtown area and outside locations.
Making the Mall Safer
Balancing the needs of many user groups – visitors, local commuters, recreationalists, and more – the National Mall and Memorial Parks and a Transportation Scholar were able to detail and formulate strategic solutions for improved access and traffic circulation opportunities. The collaborative study examined potential conflicts at pinch points in the park and formulated a range of solutions for each of these locations.
Gardiner Gateway in Yellowstone
Annual visitation to Yellowstone National Park continues to grow, including visitors entering through the park’s northern entrance, leading to significance traffic congestion, gridlock, and frustration in the gateway community of Gardiner, Montana. A Transportation Scholar helped the park by working with the community to complete an engineering study, coordinating with an inter-agency steering committee, and providing technical assistance to the project.
Shuttle System at Arches
A 2011 Transportation Scholar helped develop a pilot public shuttle system in Arches National Park, improving transportation options when visiting the park, and offering visitors more information on what to expect when visiting and suggesting places they can go. The shuttle system reduces greenhouse gases and the negative impacts of parking congestion within the park and the gateway community of Moab.
Wayfinding Signage in Bandelier
Wayfinding signage in Bandelier National Monument was inconsistent in appearance, both inside and outside of the park, and not always sited in a visible or appropriate location. A Transportation Scholar helped the park develop a thoughtful wayfinding and sign plan to address design, verbiage, and location. Additionally, the Scholar established partnerships with local agencies and finalized concepts for a Bandelier Bike Loop to provide alternative transportation to the park.
Protecting Panthers in Big Cypress
Supporting Big Cypress National Preserve’s efforts to protect Florida panthers from vehicle fatalities, a Transportation Scholar worked on projects to design and place wildlife crossing signs, coordinating with state, regional, and nonprofit constituencies. The Scholar also had a significant role in improving the transportation network surrounding the park and contributed to highway safety analyses, proposing greenway plans, and monitoring panther speed zones.
Building Connections to Cuyahoga
In 2013, a Transportation Scholar with Cuyahoga Valley National Park coordinated with regional stakeholders and helped build partnerships for outreach efforts, updating the park’s transportation plan. The Scholar identified priority projects for the park to enhance the visitor experience and conducted a pilot study to track visitors traveling to the park by busy and bicycle, partnering with a local nonprofit organization to organize and survey volunteers.