Now that Tioga Pass is open, ditch your car and enjoy expanded bus service into Yosemite, courtesy of the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) and gateway community, Lee Vining.
Recently, Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher announced a partnership with gateway communities designed to enhance visits to the Yosemite region and reduce traffic congestion. Each of the four primary gateways to the park, along Highways 120 east and west, Highway 41, and Highway 140, has designed a program tailored to their specific community, according to a press release from the National Park Service. The objective of these programs is to entice visitors to spend time in the communities before and after their Yosemite visit, which will help ease traffic congestion and expand parking availability within the park, not to mention boost business in those gateway communities.
According to Mono County District 3 Supervisor, Vikki Bauer, the desire for the program came on the heels of a road rage incident in the park last summer that left park staff unnerved. High levels of traffic congestion are not unheard of in Yosemite during the summer months.
YARTS, which has provided bus service into the park since 2000, will be an integral part of the new program, NPS said. There will be expanded runs to supplement the existing YARTS service along the Highway 120 east and Highway 140 corridors leading into Yosemite Valley. Highway 120 west, originating from Sonora, will offer YARTS runs for the first time.
Specifically for Eastsiders, YARTS will offer one new route, seven days a week during July and August, according to Bauer.
The route will go from Mammoth to June Lake to Lee Vining to Tuolumne Meadows. It will then go back and forth between Tuolumne and Lee Vining several times before making a final evening run from Tuolumne to Lee Vining to June Lake and back to Mammoth.
“There will be two opportunities from Mammoth, two from June Lake and four from Lee Vining,” Bauer said.
The bus will stop at the visitor center and the store in Tuolumne. A free park shuttle system connects the Tuolumne Visitor Center and the YARTS bus stop with nearby Tenaya Lake and Olmsted Point.
Additionally, each of the gateway communities designed specific programs tailored to visitors that pass through their region on their way to Yosemite National Park, NPS said. Mono County has produced an informational brochure highlighting activities for visitors to experience in the region and National Park Rangers will be staffing the Mono Basin Visitor Center throughout the summer.
“The $35,000 in marketing that we received from the park will be used to pay our intern, Jeff Simpson’s salary,” Bauer added. Simpson plans to begin program outreach in the next few weeks.
The overall goal of the expanded YARTS bus runs and programs in the communities is to alleviate heavy traffic congestion the park receives during peak hours of summer days. It is hoped that visitors, en route to Yosemite Valley, will enter the park either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, thus avoiding the peak congestion times. Additionally, the program emphasizes that a trip to Yosemite National Park is more than just a trip to Yosemite Valley.
This is the first formal program between the park and the gateway communities, which aims to smooth the peak travel times into Yosemite Valley, NPS continued. Each of the programs will run through the 2012 summer season. At the end of the season, the programs will be evaluated for their effectiveness in reducing traffic congestion in Yosemite Valley.
For a complete YARTS schedule, including the expanded runs, visit www.yarts.com. –NPS/LK