I visited the lovely, but very hot Yosemite National Park for the first time today (Monday). Despite it being a Monday (second least busy day on average) and a number of school systems starting classes around the nation, the park was very busy. We arrived in the latter parts of the morning along via the CA Route 140 entrance and the Yosemite Valley day use lots were already nearly full. They were closed to additional motor vehicle traffic shortly after we arrived. Here’s a chart showing the average daily traffic volume at various locations within the park.
|Historic Average Daily Traffic Volume|
|This week in previous years||Yosemite Valley||Tuolumne Meadows/
Even the National Park Service’s website indicates the extent of the problem by noting,
“A record number of vehicles have been entering Yosemite National Park in recent years. Traffic congestion may occur from mid-morning to evening, with delays ranging between one and two hours long.”
From the sea of grave,l parking lots we rode a modern, full-size hybrid shuttle bus to the visitors center, the Yosemite Lodge, and later back to the parking lots. The system was very efficient and timely. It certainly has to be helping the congestion within the heart of the park.
In another attempt to reduce automobile traffic in the park, there is even a Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) that utilized intercity passenger coaches to transport people from their hotels, motels, campgrounds, an AMTRAK station, and other sites to the park. Despite this mass transit option along CA Routes 120 and 140, there was still a line-up of cars entering the park and moments of stop-and-go traffic within the park boundaries.
Toss in the availability of numerous bicycles for rent, walking paths, and blunt signage warning of the danger of speeding in the park, the motor vehicle traffic (especially cars) still remain a noticeable hinderance to one’s quintessential “national park” experience. Even my son noted that getting around Yosemite seemed more like an amusement park. Sadly, I would tend agree with him. The only thing missing was the rides.
I realize the National Park Service is stuck between a rock and a hard place (literally and figuratively) at Yosemite and nation’s other gems. There is a mission to make our national parks available to the general public, while also the competing mission of preserving them for the wildlife that lives there and future generations. Needless to say, that is a difficult balancing act.
What’s the best solution? I don’t know enough details to provide a credible one. All I know is motor vehicle traffic is slowly choking a number of a national parks to death and something needs to be done. If the traffic congestion on a triple-digit temperature Monday is any indication, I could only imagine what a busy weekend must be like.