Assessing the Full Circle Trolley: Implications for Alternative Transportation Systems in the National Parks


  • Laura Anderson University of Wisconson
  • Robert Manning University of Vermont
  • William Valliere University of Vermont
  • Nathan Reigner University of Vermont
  • Peter Pettengill Science and Resource Management at Grand Canyon National Park
  • Vinson Pierce University of Vermont


alternative transportation systems (ATS), electric vehicles, national parks, shuttle bus, transportation partnerships


Alternative transportation systems (ATS) have become increasingly important as a means to address issues of crowding, congestion, and environmental sustainability in national parks and related areas. In 2010, a shuttle bus system was implemented at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, a small unit of the national park system located on the outskirts of the historic village of Woodstock, Vermont. This ATS consists of one electric fuel vehicle known as the Full Circle Trolley (FCT). The FCT is powered by electricity generated from methane gas derived from decomposition of cow manure from local dairy farms. This ATS project, which was funded through a federal grant administered by the National Park Service, was designed to reduce congestion on area roads, encourage parking outside of Woodstock village, improve environmental sustainability, and establish a successful transportation partnership that could be a model for future collaboration. In 2012, we conducted interviews with shuttle partners (stakeholder groups such as local chamber of commerce) (n = 9) and administered a questionnaire to shuttle riders (n = 143) to assess the program's success in meeting its objectives. Our findings suggest that the objectives of the FCT program are being met, though some are being more fully and directly met than others. For example, the survey found that some shuttle bus riders would probably have driven into Woodstock (contributing to traffic congestion) and parked on the village streets if there had been no shuttle bus service (exacerbating parking shortages). However, given the small scale of the trolley system, some partners questioned the magnitude of the trolley's impact on traffic congestion and parking. Challenges to long-term shuttle service include availability of future funding, low ridership levels, and the limitations (e.g., battery charging time) of environmentally sustainable (in this case, electric) vehicles. Results from this study contribute to and corroborate findings from other studies of ATS in national parks and related areas. Based on this growing body of research, a number of principles or best management practices are offered for planning and managing ATS in parks and related areas.