Modeling Visitor Acceptance of a Shuttle System in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Authors

  • Charles B. Sims
  • Donald G. Hodges
  • J. Mark Fly
  • Becky Stephens

Keywords:

shuttle system, contingent valuation, dichotomous choice, traffic congestion

Abstract

Visitation to the Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has grown approximately 300% in the last 20 years and has doubled since 1990. Approximately 2 million people visited Cades Cove in 2000, with 57% of this use occurring in the peak months of June-August and October (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 2003). The 11-mile one-way loop road through the Cove is operating in a near gridlock condition through much of this time. Covering the 11 miles through the cove can take up to 4 to 6 hours as visitors block traffic by stopping in the middle of the road to view flora and fauna and take pictures. The impact of this high level of visitation on the quality of visitor experience, park resources, and facility capacity is of significant concern to park officials.Other national parks faced with similar issues have opted for greater access restrictions in favor of quality improvements resulting from less traffic congestion. Acadia National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Zion National Park have all instituted various shuttle systems to alleviate traffic congestion common during certain parts of the year. However, based on public perception of how national parks are visited, the establishment of such shuttle systems could potentially result in greater impact on visitor experience than that resulting from the increase in traffic congestion.Although public sentiment to reduce traffic congestion in Cades Cove has been great, transportation management has been a key point of contention, especially the proposed mandatory shuttle alternative. Some have argued that the cost of the proposed shuttle system is too great and that access to the area by private vehicles should not be limited. Others counter that the value they receive from their visit is being compromised due to increased traffic congestion. This study attempts to model the acceptance of a proposed shuttle system by Tennessee residents to determine how many/who supports a mandatory shuttle system in Cades Cove and the value residents place on reduced traffic congestion by way of a shuttle system. A random digit dial telephone survey was conducted to garner opinions on the use of a mandatory shuttle system to alleviate traffic congestion in Cades Cove. In addition, a dichotomous choice contingent valuation question was also posed to survey respondents to determine the value of reduced traffic congestion in Cades Cove. Results indicate that support for a mandatory shuttle system may be higher than first thought and that the value of reduced traffic congestion is significant.

Published

2005-07-18

Issue

Section

Regular Papers