Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

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longri
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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by longri » Thu Oct 26, 2017 12:38 pm

I don't doubt that change is coming, whether we accede to it or not (I anticipate the latter).

But I doubt it will look like an Italian town or Zion.








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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:03 pm

If we had more of a walking culture, instead of a driving culture, there would be less need for mechanical transportation, once in the Valley. Last time I was in Yosemite Valley connecting a south rim traverse to a north rim traverse, I just walked the four miles because the shuttle busses were too slow and it took waiting for several busses to even get on one.

Promoting bicycling would also help. On an averge day you can actually get around faster on a bicycle then a car.

The valley is not the only problem. Last year they restricted cars at Glacier Point too. When the parking lot is full they shut down traffic. It was a real mess. I got in because I had a backpacking permit.

Perhaps a "do nothing" approach may actually work. If word gets out that going to Yosemite is nothing but a traffic jam, perhaps a lot of the spontaneous day-trippers would just not go. For this to work you need a good real-time communication of traffic condtions. Seems like with all the phone apps, this may be possible. The Caltrans Quickmap works very well for me right now, but does not cover inside the park. Right now the Yosemite web site just says "expect traffic delays of over 2 hours", which really does not capture the misery or extent of the traffic jams. Maybe more specific information would be better, such as "you will be in a 5 mile line at the entrance, eating up 2 hours, then you get to creep into the Valley where you will go 2 mph at most, breath exhaust, see the sights through polluted air and then never find a parking spot, see little, and will have wished you never came".

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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by Hobbes » Thu Oct 26, 2017 6:11 pm

It's always about money. Get a few allies on board with the promise of more funding, and neutralize potential opposition by co-opting objections with promises of rewards. And it's not just empty promises either: Econ 101 dictates that prices will increase if demand remains (or grows) but supply is restricted.

The Sierra club would be all over this, especially if they had a chance to 'curate' certain aspects. The main opposition would be regional lodging, yet that would be trivially easily to overcome after presenting just a few examples of how much prices have increased anywhere restrictions are imposed.

One thing that should be noted is that (day use) accommodations in the Valley would have to be improved/expanded. There is no way you can drop off thousands of people from large transport buses each & every day, and then simply say "rotsa ruck"; that's not how it works. There would have to be a large expansion in the number of dining, sitting, resting & hanging out options, as well as local transport in/out for those incapable and/or unwilling to wait for scheduled rides.

Bikes of course are another key aspect. Almost every Euro city has a bike share program (many in the US as well) with stalls located practically everywhere. The amount of local foot traffic these cities/attractions are now experiencing is somewhat revolutionary. Instead of battling cars/trucks like some grueling endurance race just to see a few sites, there are simply a zillion people strolling around, hanging out, eating and shopping.

That's what the Valley would end up looking like if they banned cars and enforced restrictions. It wouldn't decrease volume or environmental impact, it would just alter the nature of the impact. Still, some day after something if finally done, people will look back and wonder what the heck was wrong with everybody for not instituting the changes earlier.

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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by SSSdave » Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:27 pm

A problem with the below plans are they are so huge that when they were released in 2013 there was no way I or many others had enough spare time to read much of it. This current park fee increase reminded me to revisit what is going on. From my limited perusal, I thought none of the plans goes anywhere near enough in reducing automobile traffic. The most conservative plan is forecast to reduce traffic by just 32% from current levels. What I had heard was there were too many people during the input comment period still wanting to always being able to drive their vehicles into the park any time day or night, before the plans were submitted so they eliminated the more thorough ideas parking outside the valley. Regardless I will welcome they actually get going and do something. Page 8-323 has a chart showing how much all parts of each plan will cost.

Link to last 2012 plan and note it is a large document over 2800 pages long:
https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/manageme ... ad/yvp.pdf

There is also this Merced River plan that has a similar document.

https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/manageme ... uments.htm

Select the Volumne 1:Chapters 1-8 pdf document.

https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/manageme ... ad/yvp.pdf

Snippets from the above. Note page 17 discusses parking issue. There are 5 different plans discussed in the document with plan 2 the preferred plan. I would personally prefer they have more out of valley parking.

Out-of-Valley parking along the Big Oak Flat Road would be located on a
privately owned parcel known as Hazel Green, or alternatively, at Foresta...

The traveler information and traffic management system would provide visitors with
information about where to park private vehicles and the availability of overnight
accommodations in Yosemite Valley well before they arrive at the park. The system could
provide information and incentives to encourage day visitors to use out-of-Valley parking or (if
available) use transit buses during times of peak visitation. If other measures of the system do
not sufficiently reduce the number of visitors who travel into the Valley and sufficiently reduce
traffic congestion, a traffic check station may be constructed on Southside Drive in the area of
the El Capitan crossover...

Vehicle access to Yosemite Valley is the source of much disagreement and numerous
passionate opinions. Many people feel strongly that automobile access must be limited or even
eliminated to reduce traffic congestion, restore the Valley’s natural setting, and improve visitor
experience. In contrast, many other people feel strongly that automobile access must be
retained to preserve a convenient, affordable, and individualized visitor experience. Although
not everyone is convinced that Yosemite has a traffic congestion problem, many people agree
that some restrictions are required during peak periods...

some people suggest limiting Valley automobile access to
the early morning and late evening, while requiring visitors to use public transportation
during the busiest hours of the day. Vehicle use also could be reduced, others believe, by
offering incentives or disincentives to encourage people to leave their cars at home. Many
recommend allowing disabled or elderly visitors vehicle access to the Valley even if others are
restricted.

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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by Hobbes » Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:16 am

Cognizant of the danger of becoming boring, while the specific details are interesting, the entire macro issue boils down to money. (Monetary/career) interest groups that is ie NP service, Sierra club, regional economies, et al.

No one will speak for the common person wishing to freely drive/park his car on a whim. IMO, that ship has sailed. In this day and age, with population(s) doubling every 30-40 years, it's a concept from the past that has no/limited applicability moving forward.

[California of course is at the apex of this growth. If you are able to travel internationally, you might be surprised at just how exotic California appears to so many people. Two years ago, we were on a train out of Venice, and a Belgium couple next to us thought we had "movie star" voices ie the standard west coast accent is what the world associates with movies. Anyway, upon returning from any of our trips, I'm always struck by just how awesome Calif really is - there is simply no comparison.]

So, the key is to move any (potential) opposition over to the support side. All it takes is demonstrating that the economic impact is net positive. Once that happens, all (organized) opposition will melt away. Decades ago, when the first whispers were being discussed, practically none of the heritage sites/cities had implemented traffic control. Now, it's practically de rigueur; with plenty of evidence of overwhelming positive impacts, it should be a dunk shot for any politically astute organized effort to push forward.

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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by rightstar76 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:18 am

People like to hang out in their cars, wait in line for an hour for a burger, listen to music, look at their smartphone, etc. I know I like my car. If I can't find a parking space or I am redirected out of an area, I'll keep driving until I find one. I think most people do. Cars are comfortable. The solution is to make big parking lots and bus or rail people in to the valley. I think some people won't go when they realize they have to give up that comfort. There will still be plenty of revenue, but the valley won't be as crowded as some people think because not everyone is going to want to take a bus or rail. I know that I would have to think about it and so will everyone else. This is what needs to happen if visiting the valley is to improve. I think it will be alot better than the mess it currently is. Yes people will walk around and buy things, but that's not what's making visiting the valley unpleasant. It's the traffic and frustration that makes going so unpleasant. The alternative is to use $$$ to do the job and I think that is the worst way to do it. If that approach is chosen, the eliminating factor won't be do I want to take a bus, but do I have enough money and that will affect those who have less. However, it's probably the easiest and cheapest approach to do and so will probably be the one chosen which is unfortunate.

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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by SSSdave » Fri Oct 27, 2017 2:31 pm

As I noted above, none of the current plans contain the original ideas of forcing the majority of visitors during peak periods to use out of the valley parking. Despite that being the long held option of many of us. It has been deemed too radical by those like rightstar76 that just cannot imagine visiting without their vehicle. And he is correct in expecting if one could not drive into the valley, that alone would discourage considerable visitors from even going. Well at least for some period of years until public perceptions changed.

As a carrot to those that choose a much lower fee to enter the park, there could be 4 locations for parking lots within an hour of the park, Foresta, El Portal, Chinquapin, and somewhere between Elery Lake and Tioga Pass. There could also be other standard gasoline bus service from lots where lodging exists in Oakhurst, Wawona, Mariposa, and Lee Vining. Much of the valley loop roads could be for bicycles, quiet electric open air and quiet electric bus transport. The buses coming into the park would not go beyond the west end of the valley where people would take these other electric vehicles from there. The west end lot would also have considerable pay to use lockers and free bicycles. Bicycles could be at several places within the valley where they would be freely available upon signing for and could be dropped off elsewhere. Disabled people would be allowed to drive into the park for free. There would be increased numbers of walk in camping spots and about the same numbers of current lodging rooms. Those choosing to drive into the valley would need to do so between late afternoon and early morning during which they would pay the $70 fee or during off hours pay a doubled higher entrance fee. Between mid morning and late afternoon people that had driven into the park because they had lodging or campground spots would not be allowed to drive.

There would also be one day each month during peak seasons when there were no driving restrictions. That would give people in the future a way to remember and experience how insane it once was before changes. And during late fall and winter say November through February or March there would be no driving restrictions. The remote parking lots would have an automated park fee payment credit card machine the receipt for which would be applied to inside their windshield showing the number of days. The lot would be video monitored for security as well as periodically patrolled. People could sleep inside their vehicles the day/night they arrive. No sleeping, tailgating, or cooking, or setting up chairs etc outside of vehicles and there would be clean restrooms, water, and phones. Thus people would not be able to use the lot like a multi-day RV camping spot. The bus transports from lots would have extra space for gear.

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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by dave54 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 5:03 pm

I agree a more bicycle friendly attitude would help. Yosemite has the valley bike trail, but most other NPs do not have one.

Most Park roads were originally designed to be the minimum possible so as to not impair the natural features. The roads are barely wide enough for a standard passenger car. A decent shoulder is a rarity. Adding a bike lane would involve a large amount of cut and fill in most Parks. So adding bike lanes would create a gigantic furor. Most here remember the bloody fight when opening some of the existing trails (mostly old service roads) to bikes was proposed. So imagine the furor if the NPS wanted to cut and fill some steep hillsides to facilitate a bike lane in Rainier or Glacier. Yet that would alleviate some, but not all, of the congestion.
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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by SSSdave » Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:23 am

wildhiker wrote:...The biggest stumbling block is money. You would have to build enormous parking garages and some kind of rail transit to move enough people. 5000 parking spots in multi-story garages @ $30,000 per spot to build is $150 million just for the garage... -Phil


But that was only true for those trying to put much of the parking inside the valley or on SR41 near Chinquapin and was then used by those who hate the external parking solutions more as a distracting excuse to dismiss external parking ideas. Putting parking at El Portal, Foresta, east of Tioga Pass, near Oakhurst, Wawona, Lee Vining, Mariposa, and the Groveland RS would just be far cheaper ground level paved lots, mostly just land costs for those areas where public land is not available. Gasoline buses would not even enter the valley and instead their passengers would then take the electric shuttles into the park where there would be a modest size ground level parking lot somewhere at the west end of the valley with restrooms, bicycles, lots of lockers, and where shuttles going around the loop road would stop to take people elsewhere.

The anti external lot faction that includes most of the outside commercial lodging and tourists businesses have hated that idea and were able to squelch it. Just as dave54 related it would cause significant numbers of car oriented visitors to not even come to the park. But as I noted, many of those people are in a considerable need of a behavioral change for the way they use the park more like it is an outdoor Disneyland. When we did not have the traffic and overcrowding problem in the valley then accommodating that style was not an issue but in this era when solutions are necessary it is arguably the least valid.

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Re: Yosemite Valley vehicle traffic

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:14 pm

When I was in Yosemite Valley this spring, one lane was dedicated to busses only. That is one reason for the traffic jams. Not that the bus-only lane is a bad idea, but is intended for in-valley shuttle busses. Granted larger tourist busses can use them, but until you reach the valley at the 41/140 junction, there are only one lane each way, so the busses get stuck in traffic too. And due to the tunnels, road widening is not economically feasible.

So you need to get the parking lots as close to the valley as possible. Foresta is a good location. It would accomodate a very large parking lot and could be used by visitors from the east via Tioga Pass as well as from the west from Groveland. Let concessioniers set up facilities at the parking lots, which would partially pay for the parking lots. Why not a visitor center? Why not a store? After all, all the functions of the valley visitor center can be equally performed out of the valley. The junction of Glaicer Point Road and 41 is also a good spot. Maybe you could simply enlarge the parking lot at the ski area since there is no skiing in the busy season. Finding a location for a parking lot from 140 would be more challenging. But large hotels are close enough that simply expanding their lots may work.

Then offer very good and frequent bus service. People will use public transportation when it becomes more efficient and pleasant than driving thier own car. I do not even think you have to ban cars, but you could charge for in-valley parking.

Unfortunately bus service in the USA is far behind that offered in most other countries so we have the perception of busses being a bad option. San Francisco is an example of good public transportation. I have walked, bicycled, used busses, and taken ferries and much prefer these to driving a car. Yoy have to pay bridge tolls to get in to SF and hotels often charge $50 or more to park a car overnight. Instead, you can park your car free at the Ferry Terminal with a $12 ticket, and the ferry ride is fun in itself. Downtown SF is compact and very walkable and has good bus service too. We never drive into SF anymore.

All this would have to be phased in slowly, due both to the cost of it and to simply get people's attituides adjusted without it seeming like a car ban. People accept change better if done incrementally rather than one day you can drive your car and the next day you cannot.

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