In September 2014, I traveled (with my infant daughter) to Washington DC to speak at the Transportation Research Board's Transportation and Federal Lands Conference. I was pleasantly surprised when my abstract was accepted, and even more pleased when I was put in the largest auditorium, a beautiful old theater in the National Academy of Science building.
A large statue of Albert Einstein welcomed me as I entered the building the first day of the conference. I thought about the connection between the venue and the topic (if any). Are our National Parks focused on science? Certainly! But what is the connection between science and transporting the public to our federal lands?
I have been amazed since working as a contractor in the NPS to learn that this agency is committed to innovation. While the first half of our hundred-year history focused on building building roads, bridges, and trails (all of which we're very good at), the second half has been about managing the assets to leave minimal impact on the land while still allowing as many visitors as possible.
My current work as a transportation scholar deals with one of each of these topics. Firstly, my presentation at the conference was about a multi-use path concept I've been developing for Bandelier. As an off-road, paved trail, the loop going from Los Alamos down to Bandelier and back up along the Santa Fe National Forest would create a multi-modal, alternative transportation link between the five agencies in the area.
The second main project I've been working on is a transportation plan to make permanent the seasonal shuttle which runs from White Rock to the park, another alternative transportation link that would reduce impact on Bandelier itself and reduce the number of cars driving that extra thirty four miles into and out of the park. I'm committed to making our parks more sustainable for the second hundred years of its existence, and I'm pleased to say that many other professionals in this field are equally if not more committed to this cause.