Indicators for a Transportation Recreation Opportunity Spectrum in National Parks


  • Xiao Xiao University of Vermont
  • Robert Manning University of Vermont
  • Steven Lawson Resource Systems Group
  • William Valliere University of Vermont
  • Daniel Krymkowski University of Vermont



Transportation Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (T-ROS), race/ethnicity, indicators, recreation experience, national parks


National parks include environmentally and historically important areas of America that are to be both preserved and enjoyed by the public. Moreover, national parks are a manifestation of American democracy and should be accessible to all Americans. Transportation is an important component of national park planning and management; transportation serves as a means of access to national parks, and also provides a range of transportation settings that offer diverse recreational opportunities. This study adapts the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS), a longstanding conceptual framework in parks and outdoor recreation, to management of transportation in national parks in the form of a Transportation Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (T-ROS). On-site visitor surveys were conducted in five National Park Service units ranging from urban to rural recreation settings to identify transportation-related indicators of quality, a vital component of the ROS and proposed T-ROS frameworks. Indicators are measurable, manageable variables that are proxies for management objectives. Indicators were identified for three important contexts of transportation in national parks. The first context was mode of transportation; national parks offer a wide variety of modes of transportation, and indicators are likely to vary across these types of transportation. Driving through national parks is supported by a system of iconic roads that connect many of the parks’ scenic features. However, visitors increasingly experience national parks on public transit and along bikeways. The second context was type of park. There are more than 400 units of the national park system, and these areas vary across a spectrum from rural to urban; transportation-related indicators may vary across this spectrum of parks. The third context was race/ethnicity of visitors. Visitors to national parks vary in many ways, including their race and ethnicity. Minority racial/ethnic groups have been historically underrepresented in the national parks. This suggests that it is important to explore how transportation-related indicators might vary across racial/ethnic groups as a way to encourage more diverse visitors to the national parks and advance the democratic ideal of the national park system. Study findings identify a number of transportation-related indicators that can be used to build a T-ROS system. Findings also suggest that these indicators often vary across mode of transportation, type of park, and race/ethnicity of park visitors. Based on these findings, a T-ROS conceptual framework is proposed. Study results extend the ROS framework to transportation-related recreation opportunities, provide quantitative measures of the diversity of transportation-related recreation experiences, and strengthen the linkage between transportation and recreation for racial/ethnic minority groups.Subscribe to JPRA

Author Biographies

Xiao Xiao, University of Vermont

Park Studies Laboratory, University of VermontUVM Transportation Research Center

Robert Manning, University of Vermont

Professor Emeritus, Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources, Director of Park Studies Laboratory, University of Vermont 

Steven Lawson, Resource Systems Group

Senior Director of Public Lands Planning and Management; Adjunct Associate Professor in Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont.

William Valliere, University of Vermont

Research Specialist, Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont

Daniel Krymkowski, University of Vermont

Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Vermont