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Measuring and Managing the Quality of Transportation in National Parks, Public Lands, and Outdoor Recreation
- By Glenn McRae
Transportation, in the context of parks and outdoor recreation, is much more than reaching a destination. In fact, transportation in parks is often a form of recreation itself. Whether driving a scenic road, touring on a shuttle bus, or biking along a greenway, transportation often shapes the way we engage and experience landscapes. For this reason, transportation management in parks and outdoor recreation warrants an interdisciplinary approach.
As a transportation scholar and research assistant at the Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources, Peter Pettengill has spent the last four years studying transportation through the lens of an outdoor recreation professional. In conjunction with the UVM Transportation Research Center and Park Studies Laboratory, he has been part of team that has conducted fieldwork in Vermont, Acadia National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The intent of his program of study is three-fold: (1) determine what constitutes high quality transportation in the context of parks and outdoor recreation, (2) understand why visitors choose one mode of travel over another, and how this might be managed and (3) develop a systems-based approach to planning and managing transportation opportunities in parks and outdoor recreation.
The first phase of research is designed to integrate Levels of Service (a widely used framework in conventional transportation planning) and indicators and standards of quality (a framework for managing outdoor recreation), using surveys of visitors to a range of outdoor recreation areas. The second phase of research builds upon this integrated model by incorporating multiple attributes of recreational travel into a stated-preference survey design. The attributes of crowding, convenience, corridor design, and cost are included in a second set of visitor surveys. The condition of these attributes helps determine what mode of travel visitors choose, and analysis of resulting data suggests how park managers might influence visitors’ choices to travel by car, bus, or bicycle. The final phase of research will develop a Transportation-Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (T-ROS) to help guide transportation planning and management in parks and public lands. T-ROS includes a series of matrices that align indicators of quality on one axis and standards of quality on the other axis to suggest a diverse range of transportation opportunities in parks and related areas.
Peter has presented his research at scientific and professional meetings at regional, national, and international scales. While much of his work was made possible by a TRC Signature Project grant, he has also conducted research under the commission of the Paul S. Sarbanes Transportation Research in Parks Technical Assistance Center as well as the Central Federal Lands Highway division of the Federal Highway Administration.
Furthermore, this research is beginning to develop into publications. Peter is the senior author on an article entitled ‘Measuring and Managing the Quality of Transportation at Acadia National Park’ published by the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration (available at: http://js.sagamorepub.com/jpra/article/view/2543/2486) and is also senior author of an article entitled ‘Traveler Perspectives of Greenway Quality in Northern New England’ which has been accepted for publication the Transportation Research Record: The Journal of the Transportation Research Board (available at: http://www.uvm.edu/~transctr/research/grad/12-1116.pdf ). He has also co-authored a literature review of the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum and its potential application to transportation (available at: http://www.triptac.org/Documents/RepositoryDocuments/TROS_Lit_rev.pdf.pdf).
Peter is thankful for his support from UVM’s Transportation Research Center and Park Studies Laboratory. His research would not have been possible without his advisor Robert Manning and he is grateful for guidance from his academic committee including Brian Lee, Austin Troy, and Curt Ventriss. He plans to defend his dissertation this fall and recently accepted a position with the National Park Service at Grand Canyon National Park.