TRC and Parks Studies Lab Researchers Present at National Park Transportation Conference

Researchers from the Transportation Research Center and UVM Park Studies Lab presented at the Transportation Research Board’s Conference on Transportation and Federal Lands: Enhancing Access, Mobility, Sustainability, and Connections.  The conference took place September 15-17th in Washington D.C. and “focuses on transportation needs in National Parks and other Federal Lands” according to the conference summary.  Xiao Xiao, a TRC Graduate Research Assistant and PhD candidate working in the Park Studies Lab presented “Quantitative approaches to calibrate performance measures for transportation and recreation on public lands”.  Xiao was joined by fellow researcher Dr. Nathan Reigner, Associate Director of the Park Studies Lab, and Elizabeth (Bess) Perry, a PhD candidate with the Rubenstein School.  The presentation was based on a paper titled “Bridge or Barrier? The Role of Transportation in Visiting National Parks by Racial/Ethnic Minorities” that was additionally co-authored by Dr. Robert Manning, William Valliere, and W. Vinson Pierce, all of the Park Studies Lab.

“Perceived transportation accessibility may contribute to the under-representation of minorities in national parks. UVM’s Park Studies Lab conducted research on this topic, with focus on transportation barriers and incentives to park visitation, and found that Hispanic non-visitors and urban park visitors would be most likely to respond to transportation incentives” – Elizabeth Perry, Park Studies Lab


The presentation is just an example of some of the recent research the Park Studies Lab has conducted.  The lab has been investigating access and mobility concerns relating to National Parks and are partially funded by the Transportation Research Center.  Xiao’s research with the TRC and Park Studies Lab explores diversity and barriers to minority access in the National Park System.

“How do you quantify the relationship between transportation and recreation experience? With support of the TRC, Rubenstein School and Park Studies Laboratory of UVM we developed a creative approach to calibrate performance measures for level of service and indicators and standards on the Burlington Bike Path, and found both connections and gaps between performance measures for transportation and recreation on public lands.” – Xiao Xiao, Park Studies Lab


Dr. Reigner is a former TRC Graduate Research Assistant and moved into the position of Associate Director of the Park Studies Lab following the completion of his PhD.  Nathan’s research earned him the TRC’s Student of the Year Award in 2013.

Feeling crowded on your hike?  Think a transit system might solve your problems?  With UTC funding and TRC support UVM’s Park Studies Lab, in collaboration with Applied Trails Research, is developing a new, pan-scale modeling platform for multi-modal transportation and recreation planning and management.  – Dr. Nathan Reigner, Park Studies Lab


Information on the research paper can be found below and additional information on the authors and their research can be found on the Park Studies Lab website.

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Title: Bridge or Barrier? The Role of Transportation in Visiting National Parks by Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Authors: Elizabeth E. Perry, Xiao Xiao, Robert E. Manning, William Valliere, Nathan Reigner, and W. Vinson Pierce

Affiliation (all authors): University of Vermont, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Park Studies Laboratory

Primary author contact information:; 81 Carrigan Drive, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405

Abstract: National parks are democratic entities, established and managed for the collective good, including conservation of important natural and cultural resources and enjoyment and appreciation by the people. Transportation is vital in helping the national parks fulfill their democratic mission. Transportation aids in the enjoyment and appreciation of national parks by facilitating access to these recreation opportunities and often serving as a means of recreation itself. However, transportation can also be a barrier to visitation, as national parks may not be equally accessible to all Americans. We conducted a study of this issue by 1) administering a survey to visitors at five diverse park units (African Burial Grounds National Monument, General Grant National Memorial, Fire Island National Seashore, Acadia National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park) and 2) administering a general population survey of residents of New York City. These surveys addressed the role of a range of transportation modes in visiting national parks and related issues. The study found different uses of selected transportation modes and varying attitudes toward transportation issues to and within parks depending on respondent residence (local or non-local), race/ethnicity (Hispanic, African-American, and White), and visitor/non-visitor status. Although some findings were common among groups (e.g., importance of scenic views, transportation improvements increasing the likelihood of visiting national parks), significant differences were also found (e.g., selection of transportation mode, comfort with using public transportation). Study findings have implications for park and transportation management and contribute to the literature on the relevance of national parks to minority racial/ethnic groups.

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