U.S. Departments of Transportation and Interior to partner on improved access and transportation at National Parks

Nov. 18, 2021
The MOU between the two departments will strengthen coordination concerning infrastructure investments and technology deployment.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed by the Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg that will see the two departments work in coordination on infrastructure investments and the deployment of technologies at National Park Service-management sites to increase access and enhance the transportation experience.

The two departments aim to “build world-class transportation systems that provide enhanced access for car-free trips, interpretation, education and enjoyment opportunities to visitors who want to experience public lands.” The MOU’s priorities include innovative technology pilots, shared mobility integration, the electrification of major transit fleets, additional electric vehicle charging stations and traveler information systems such as real-time transit arrival and parking availability.

“As our national parks and public lands experience a surge of visitation, we must be innovative in our approaches to welcome people from every zip code, while also ensuring that we pass on these natural and cultural resources to future generations. Through this partnership with transportation, our teams can advance the intersection of transportation innovations and access to public spaces,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “When we talk about and plan around access, we must do so with an eye toward equity. I look forward to working closely with Secretary Buttigieg and his team to ensure that sustainability and equitable access to parks and public lands remain hallmarks of our work.”

The National Park Service is aware of the impact traffic and congestion has on the environment, as well as the visitor experience. It has developed a congestion mitigation toolkit containing various ways to address congestion. In 2020, a year that saw 66 of the National Park Service’s 423 parks closed for two or more months, the 10 most visited parks hosted approximately 80.4 million visitors and a traffic count of nearly 80 million.

“Alongside the president’s historic bipartisan infrastructure law, today’s MOU will help improve transportation in our national parks and communities across America,” said Transportation Secretary Buttigieg. “I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Haaland and the National Park Service to keep our most prized natural wonders accessible and safe for all Americans.”

In 2019, the Volpe Center produced a report on the National Park Service’s transit inventory. It found 95 transit system operated in 60 of 400-plus National Park Service units. The National Park Service owned and operated 21 of the 95 systems and served 45.9 million passengers.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal that was signed into law on Nov. 15 contains funds for Federal Transportation Program, which will help invest in repairing and upgrading National Park Service roads, bridges, trails and transit systems. The Department of the Interior explains the law also invests in projects that will help fund bridge replacements and resiliency, repair ferry boats and terminal facilities, and maintain wildlife crossings that keep people and surrounding wildlife safe.

The departments believe the MOU “refreshes” a partnership that stretches back nearly 100 years and will focus “generational investments in the newest innovation and technology.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.