Visitors’ Experiences of Traditional and Alternative Transportation in Yosemite National Park


  • Dave D. White
  • Jessica F. Aquino
  • Megha Budruk
  • Aaron Golub


Transportation experience, alternative transportation systems, integrated transportation systems, national park transportation, visitor experience


During the twentieth century, the private automobile emerged as the dominant mode of transportation access for visitors to travel to and through most U.S. national parks. Public land management agencies including the National Park Service increasingly are concerned about the relationship between park transportation systems and the quality of visitors’ experiences and the natural environment. Among these concerns are visitor crowding, traffic congestion, parking shortages, air pollution, noise pollution, and impacts to wildlife and roadside vegetation. To address these concerns, national parks are implementing integrated transportation systems that combine traditional and alternative transportation modes with adaptive management strategies. Given the sharpening focus on transportation by national park researchers and managers, it is critical to understand visitors’ travel-related attitudes, decisionmaking behavior, and experiences. Doing so would allow the national parks to develop transportation management policies and inform efforts to influence visitor behavior such as encouraging a shift to alternative transportation in the most effective and least disruptive way. This study builds on prior interpretive and qualitative research into visitors’ experience of the transportation system in Yosemite National Park. The objectives of the current study are to: a) document travel mode choices for visitors entering and travelling through Yosemite National Park, b) identify the importance of transportation modes to visitors and their satisfaction with each mode, c) examine visitors’ perceptions of experiential dimensions of travelling via alternative and traditional transportation modes in the park, and d) identify visitors’ preferences regarding transportation management. Data were collected from a random sample of adult park visitors through an on-site, self-administered questionnaire (N=533; acceptance rate 73%). Findings indicate an enduring reliance on private automobiles as the primary mode for travel to and through the park. Visitors rated the ability to use alternative transportation inside the park as very important and visitors are 39 satisfied with the convenience of alternative transportation modes. Visitors are also satisfied overall with the convenience of private vehicles. The results show substantively small but statistically significant differences in visitors’ ratings of private automobiles versus park shuttle busses in terms of perceived sense of stress and conflict, freedom and access, and nature experience. These findings have implications for the development of indicators of transportation experience quality in national parks.





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