Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Grant will help keep shuttle at Mount Rainier rolling along

November 19, 2009, 7:46 am

A $75,000 grant will help Mount Rainier National Park operate its shuttle bus system next year and pay for a study to improve the efficiency of the park’s fleet of vehicles.

The money came from a grant awarded Monday by The Boeing Company Charitable Trust to Washington’s National Park Fund.

Next season will be the fifth the park has operated the most recent version of its shuttle system, first started because of construction at Paradise.

One route carries visitors from Longmire to Paradise and along Paradise Valley Road. Another route, added two years ago, carries passengers from outside the park at Ashford to Longmire.

The contract with the company that provides the small buses has been averaging $180,000 a season. The park also has been spending another $75,000 a year for staff, toilets and other costs.

“Boeing’s generous grant will help Mount Rainier support a public shuttle service in 2010 that is intended to reduce vehicle congestion at Paradise and enhance the visitor experience, while also reducing miles driven and emissions from private vehicles,” said Randy King, acting park superintendent.

“At Boeing, we are serious about lowering our environmental footprint,” Neelima Shah, the company’s community investor for environmental issues in the Northwest, said in a prepared statement. “Just as we have set targets for improving our operations’ eco-efficiency, we think the Mount Rainier project has set a very worthwhile goal.”

The system this past summer drew the most riders since starting in 2006. There were 30,202 riders from mid-June to early September, said Bryan Bowden, the park’s community outreach planner.

That is up from 10,213 in 2208, 18,254 in 2007 and 13,481 in 2006.

“Public response to the shuttle service has been very positive, and we have a transportation study under way that will provide recommendations in 2011 on how to expand this service in the future,” King said.

Bowden cited three factors for the 296 percent increase in ridership from 2008 to 2009.

The first was the great weather most weekends this season.

“When we look at the weather, there is an obvious correlation between warm sunny days in July and August and ridership numbers,” Bowden said.

He also said visitors are getting accustomed to riding the shuttles.

The other factor was the shuttle provided a better alternative for people parking far down Paradise Valley Road. Because the lower parking lot at Paradise was closed, visitors needed to use the road for overflow parking when the upper lot was full.

“There were days last summer when people were parked 3 to 4 miles down the Valley Road, almost all the way to the intersection with Stevens Canyon Road,” Bowden said. “Therefore, more people were using the loop shuttle.”

The grant also is paying for an analysis of the park’s vehicles and motorized equipment.

“The study will result in a plan that will seek to optimize the type, number and configuration of the vehicles and motorized equipment that support park operations,” King said.

It will analyze the 118 vehicles the park uses during the summer and 140 other pieces of equipment. The study also will recommend ways to reduce emissions and operating costs such as using fewer vehicles, improving fuel efficiency standards, using new technologies or using alternative fuels.

The study is one step in the park’s Climate Friendly Park initiative. The goal is to make park operations at Mount Rainier, and all other Pacific region parks, carbon neutral by 2016. That means reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent at Mount Rainier.