“It is unfeasible financially and even if we could afford it, it wouldn’t do enough to solve the problem with the number of buses we could afford,” said Kate Cannon, superintendent for the National Park Service’s Southeast Utah Group. “We are looking at variations. The problem still exists and we need to solve it.”
Consultants hired with grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks program conducted a study of options for relieving traffic problems. Park visitors have faced increasing parking shortages and vehicle congestion as visitation numbers have grown over the years.
A total of 1,040,752 people visited Arches during 2011, according to figures from the Moab Area Travel Council. That’s up from 996,310 in 2009 and 786,853 in 2000.
Parking lots near the Devils Garden, Delicate Arch/Wolfe Ranch, and the Windows section of the park are the most congested areas, according to Arches officials. Cannon previously told The Times-Independent of a tour group that circled Devils Garden 14 times before being able to park.
Sabrina Henry, environmental protection specialist for the Southeast Utah Group, said this week that other ways to address traffic issues are being discussed.
“We are looking at revisions to parking areas that will make the most out of available space,” she said. “We are currently working on an environmental assessment that will address road improvements throughout the park as well as parking design and hope to implement parking improvements in the Devils Garden area by next summer.”
She added the park service hasn’t given up on the shuttle bus idea at Arches, but a scaled down version in conjunction with other congestion management strategies is under consideration.
“We continue to encourage visitors to visit the park during less congested times of day and year,” Henry said.