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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Lands Team Capabilities

Volpe's Public Lands Team helps federal land management agencies resolve complex transportation challenges at both the program and project levels.

Every year, over one billion people visit America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other federally managed public lands. These extraordinary places, which comprise approximately one-third of the U.S. landmass, offer natural, scenic, historic, recreational, and educational opportunities to be found nowhere else—and they face unique transportation challenges, distinct from those confronting urban areas and small towns.

Our Capabilities

Transportation Planning

Evaluate existing conditions and collect and analyze data to develop sustainable and implementable transportation plans and projects.

The Public Lands Team develops multimodal transportation solutions tailored to our partners’ needs to balance resource management and visitor access. The team supports both nationwide programs and individual public land units in assessing the current efficiency and prospective feasibility of land-based and waterborne transportation systems, selecting appropriate vehicles and fuel technology, and developing recommended implementation steps.

Working with Fort Stanwix National Monument in New York, Volpe Center staff made recommendations on nonmotorized trail connections, vehicular signage and wayfinding, parking, pedestrian access, and shuttle feasibility. At Isle Royale National Park, our team planned for and implemented safety improvements to the National Park Service (NPS) Ranger III ferry and updates and expansions to the Rock Harbor Dock on Isle Royale.

Volpe Center staff have expertise and experience with congestion assessments, and have provided targeted, short-term technical assistance in defining congestion hot spots and determining which tools from the NPS Congestion Management Toolkit would most effectively mitigate congestion.

The Public Lands Team crafts long-term, fiscally constrained transportation plans. Volpe Center staff helped lead the development of the National Park Service’s first National Long Range Transportation Plan to communicate a national vision for transportation within the agency, including a financial strategy and performance goals. Our team also provides national long-range transportation planning support to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Technology Evaluation and Deployment

Propose and evaluate visitor use and advanced mobility technologies.

Helicopter tour in a National Park

The team supports public land agencies to plan, implement, and evaluate technologies that improve visitor information, reduce congestion and environmental impacts, and track visitation. Volpe Center staff supports NPS emerging mobility, including planning for and evaluating the first-ever automated shuttle pilots on any recreational public lands in the country at Yellowstone National Park and Wright Brothers National Memorial. Volpe Center staff also created a Capital Plan for the Presidio Trust’s PresidiGo’s transit system, which includes a technical analysis of alternative transit fleet fuels and a transition strategy to these new fuels.

We provide technical expertise planning for electric vehicle charging infrastructure for both visitors and agency fleets, evaluate the suitability of battery electric buses (BEBs) for transit systems within public lands, and we are currently conducting research on e-bikes. The team leverages its long history working with public land agencies to contextualize and consider how the introduction of electric vehicles and infrastructure into public lands impacts an agency’s mission to retain historic, cultural, and natural environments.

Project, Program, and Policy Development

Advance economical, socially just, and environmentally sustainable access to public lands.

The trolley at Lowell National Historical Park.Our team works with public land management agencies at unit, regional, and national levels to understand transportation needs and priorities and help identify appropriate ways to address them. Through legislative support and program assessments, we engage partners on how transportation rules and regulations apply to public land units and their transportation systems. We assist with technical evaluation of project scopes and proposals, as either facilitators or participants, which often translate into prioritization of projects for near and medium-term programming. The team also uses its transportation expertise and knowledge of land management agency needs to support the development of guides and toolkits to share best practices and lessons learned.

Our team worked closely with the NPS’s Transportation Branch to develop its Active Transportation Guidebook. The guidebook lays out NPS policies on active transportation and provides planning and design considerations for several modes to help park units and their partners enhance the use of active transportation. At Hanging Lake in the White River National Forest in Colorado, Volpe Center staff worked with the public and stakeholders to develop and analyze several alternatives to manage crowding, resource impacts, and safety concerns at the site. This work culminated in a shuttle/parking reservation system that spreads visitation evenly throughout the day.

Environmental Analysis and Modeling

Resolve environmental challenges through data collection, modeling, and compliance activities.

Cape Cod scenario planning workshop.Our team supports public land management agencies to advance environmental goals, including deploying more sustainable multi-modal transportation systems, addressing climate change impacts, improving resilience, and protecting biological, cultural, and soundscape resources. The Volpe Center supported the USFS in developing the USFS Transportation Resiliency Guidebook, which provides the field with a process to assess and address climate change impacts on USFS transportation assets at the local and regional levels. Working with national and local agencies, our team led climate change scenario planning projects on Cape Cod and in Central New Mexico. These initiatives incorporated transportation, land use, and climate change considerations into long-range transportation plans to improve the resilience and sustainability of these regions.

Our team is also helping the NPS Northeast Region investigate the use of quieter pavement to preserve natural soundscapes. Volpe Center biologists, cultural resource specialists, and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) practitioners support NPS at the national, regional, and unit-level with program- and project-level environmental and cultural resource compliance efforts. We maintain the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Environmental Design Tool and leverage the tool to help national parks develop air tour management plans.

Transportation Safety Analysis

Develop safety programs and analyze site-specific safety concerns.

"People with reflective safety vests gathered on an asphalt roadway on a rural road."

The Public Lands Team works with public land management agencies to improve safety through both national-level program development and site-level safety analyses. Since 2011 the team has supported NPS with program and product development for its Transportation Safety Program, the agency’s first program focused on reducing nationwide fatalities and serious injury crashes on NPS roadways. The team also performs unit-wide, corridor, and site-specific safety studies for agencies such as NPS and USFWS. Safety recommendations reflect the unique priorities and contexts of each unit and include engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency response best practices. Safety technical assistance also includes coordination with a variety of transportation safety stakeholders within federal land management agencies and their surrounding jurisdictions and communities.

Metrics and Measurement for Performance Management

Collect, analyze, and communicate data to help partners make informed decisions.

Reliable data allows managers to make informed decisions in a fiscally constrained environment to maximize public benefit in providing access and managing resources. The Volpe Center Public Lands Team collects, analyzes, and communicates data related to visitor use, asset management, and performance management.

Our team is collaborating with NPS to experiment with crowdsourced data from mobile devices (location-based service or LBS data) to better understand visitor travel patterns. The Volpe Center has pioneered the application of statewide and metropolitan transportation planning processes to public lands, including asset management (the physical and financial condition of the roads, bridges, tunnels, trails, docks, etc.) and transportation performance management activities like creation of performance measures, evaluation tools, and systematic metrics tracking and reporting that enables data-based decision making.

Stakeholder Engagement & Partnerships

Leverage best practices for facilitating successful internal and public meetings, execute stakeholder outreach and communications campaigns, and accelerate innovative partnerships.

Engagement with partners and the public is a critical part of transportation planning and the Volpe Center Public Lands Team helps public land agencies navigate complex planning engagement activities like facilitating interagency meetings and internal workshops. We coordinate annual, quarterly, and monthly meetings among USFWS’s transportation, asset management, facilities management, and infrastructure management groups. We also assist our sponsors with reaching out and engaging with the public and stakeholders. For example, the Volpe Center team has been working with public and private partners for several years to improve shuttle, private vehicle, and bicycle transportation to the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen, Colorado.

Financing joint transportation projects and services is a topic that often requires extensive engagement and partnership building, and our team has helped public lands agencies build and sustain innovative partnerships with public and private sector transportation providers. For the Mississippi River Paddle Share program, our team has been working with NPS, county and local park departments, and non-profit partners to implement a one-of-a-kind kayak-sharing program on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota.