Yosemite National Parking Lot

I visited the lovely, but very hot Yosemite National Park for the first time today (Monday). Despite it being a Monday (second least busy day on average) and a number of school systems starting classes around the nation, the park was very busy. We arrived in the latter parts of the morning along via the CA Route 140 entrance and the Yosemite Valley day use lots were already nearly full. They were closed to additional motor vehicle traffic shortly after we arrived. Here’s a chart showing the average daily traffic volume at various locations within the park.

Historic Average Daily Traffic Volume
This week in previous years Yosemite Valley Tuolumne Meadows/
Tioga Road
Mariposa Grove/Wawona
Thursday 5,563 1,559 2,267
Friday 5,732 1,590 2,332
Saturday 6,368 1,497 2,548
Sunday 5,635 1,946 2,335
Monday 5,239 1,837 2,115
Tuesday 5,262 1,531 1,965
Wednesday 5,168 1,433 2,035

Even the National Park Service’s website indicates the extent of the problem by noting,

“A record number of vehicles have been entering Yosemite National Park in recent years. Traffic congestion may occur from mid-morning to evening, with delays ranging between one and two hours long.”

Source: nps.gov

From the sea of grave,l parking lots we rode a modern, full-size hybrid shuttle bus to the visitors center, the Yosemite Lodge, and later back to the parking lots. The system was very efficient and timely. It certainly has to be helping the congestion within the heart of the park.

Source: energyoverseer.com

In another attempt to reduce automobile traffic in the park, there is even a Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) that utilized intercity passenger coaches to transport people from their hotels, motels, campgrounds, an AMTRAK station, and other sites to the park. Despite this mass transit option along CA Routes 120 and 140, there was still a line-up of cars entering the park and moments of stop-and-go traffic within the park boundaries.

Source: yarts.com

Toss in the availability of numerous bicycles for rent, walking paths, and blunt signage warning of the danger of speeding in the park, the motor vehicle traffic (especially cars) still remain a noticeable hinderance to one’s quintessential “national park” experience. Even my son noted that getting around Yosemite seemed more like an amusement park. Sadly, I would tend agree with him. The only thing missing was the rides.

I realize the National Park Service is stuck between a rock and a hard place (literally and figuratively) at Yosemite and nation’s other gems. There is a mission to make our national parks available to the general public, while also the competing mission of preserving them for the wildlife that lives there and future generations. Needless to say, that is a difficult balancing act.

What’s the best solution? I don’t know enough details to provide a credible one. All I know is motor vehicle traffic is slowly choking a number of a national parks to death and something needs to be done. If the traffic congestion on a triple-digit temperature Monday is any indication, I could only imagine what a busy weekend must be like.

This entry was posted in Active transportation, Animals, bicycling, civics, environment, geography, history, infrastructure, land use, nature, North America, planning, sprawl, sustainability, tourism, transit, transportation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Yosemite National Parking Lot

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    The lack of funding to fully implement the “YARTS” solution across the system (Great Smoky Mtns, etc.) will continue to bedevil the NPS unless there is an almost “miraculous” (spelling?) breakthrough in park system funding that doesn’t involve sky-high park user fees…


  2. Steven Olson says:

    Very interesting topic, appreciate it for posting.


  3. Around circa year 2000 we were on the short list for use on the Grand Canyon versus DMU vehicles for 9 miles – nothing was funded. We have made available the followinf information on the web: NASA contest posted mid June 2012: STC150: http://contest.techbriefs.com/component/content/article/2520 also from 2011 below:
    SOAR300: http://contest.techbriefs.com/component/content/article/1318
    ET: http://contest.techbriefs.com/component/content/article/1461
    The SOAR300. in 2 or 3 car trains would be a purely electronic solution, write to the park district!
    Good luck…


  4. Jerrod says:

    Greetings! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new project in a
    community in the same niche. Your blog provided us
    useful information to work on. You have done a extraordinary


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