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Incentives and Disincentives for Day Visitors to Park and Ride Public Transportation at Acadia National Park

F. Matthew Holly, Jeffrey C. Hallo, Elizabeth D. Baldwin, Fran P. Mainella

Abstract


Acadia National Park, located on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, attracts over two million visitors each year (National Park Service, 2009). To protect the park’s natural resources and provide for superior visitor experiences, the National Park Service established the fare-free Island Explorer bus service in 1999 to transport visitors around the park and to surrounding destinations on Mount Desert Island. This service has seen a steady increase in annual ridership, and will further expand in the future with the completion of an off-island park-and-ride transit hub called the Acadia Gateway Center. As parks and protected areas such as Acadia continue to implement alternative transportation strategies, it is important to understand both who is likely to use public transportation in parks and why visitors are making these decisions. This study answers these questions for prospective public transportation users at the Acadia Gateway Center. Thirty-nine semi-structured interviews and 191 surveys were administered to Mount Desert Island day visitors to determine incentives and disincentives for using this proposed facility as a park-and-ride lot for the Island Explorer. Both quantitative and qualitative results suggest that the most important factor in a visitor’s decision to ride or not ride the Island Explorer is the frequency of buses and the associated length of wait for a bus. Other important factors that emerged from this study such as routing, bus configuration, crowding, driving stress, and environmental values, are investigated from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Visitor trip and visit characteristics were examined and significant differences in intention to park at the Acadia Gateway Center and ride the Island Explorer were found. Repeat visitors to Acadia are less likely to park and ride than first-time visitors, and Maine residents are less likely to park and ride than visitors from out of state. Visitors who spend a longer amount of time on Mount Desert Island or lodge nearer to the park are more likely to park and ride than those spending less time or lodging further away. These results suggest that management efforts to increase public transportation ridership among day visitors should focus on first-time, out-of-state visitors who may be lodging near the park. Additionally, specific management efforts to increase ridership may best focus on providing a frequent, uncrowded bus service that stops at primary visitor attractions, rather than a comprehensive, less frequent,
75 or crowded service. Also, advertising park-specific environmental benefits of public transportation may play a secondary role in increasing ridership among park visitors.?

Keywords


Alternative transportation systems, ridership, national park transportation, buses, visitor experience, day use

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