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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


Program and Policy Development

Advance economically efficient, socially just, and environmentally sustainable access to public lands at all levels.

The Public Lands Team works with federal land management agencies at a variety of levels to characterize transportation needs and priorities. For example, Volpe staff work closely with the National Park Service’s Transportation Branch to document and communicate alternative transportation assets. This helps the agency catalog its transit and intelligent transportation systems and communicate needs to Congress. Similarly, Volpe helps the U.S. Forest Service’s Engineering Office program propose transportation projects across the country and communicate how completed projects benefit national forests. Volpe also continues to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify alternative transportation needs and opportunities at individual units.

Environmental Compliance and Modeling

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

Helicopter tour in a National Park

The Public Lands Team supports federal lands management agencies in a number of capacities, including in the protection of biological, cultural, and soundscape resources. For example, Volpe biologists and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) practitioners help units with compliance documents, both for high-level management plans and specific projects. 

Project examples include Sabino Canyon in Arizona’s Coronado National Forest and Virginia’s Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Volpe is also helping the Northeast Region of the National Park Service investigate the use of quieter pavement in its preservation of natural soundscapes. Also, Volpe maintains the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Environmental Design Tool and leverages the tool to help national parks develop air tour management plans.

Multimodal Planning and Evaluation

Evaluate transit and alternative fuel vehicle options and nonmotorized transportation alternatives.

The trolley at Lowell National Historical Park.The Public Lands Team develops multi-dimensional alternative transportation solutions tailored to individual needs that balance resource management and visitor access needs. The Public Lands Team supports individual federal lands units in assessing the feasibility of prospective land and waterborne transit systems, selecting appropriate vehicles and fuel technology, and developing nonmotorized transportation alternatives.

Volpe’s feasibility analyses identified a commercial opportunity for over-the-snow access to Kenai Fjords National Park and supported the purchase of a new operations landing craft at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Working with Fort Stanwix National Monument in New York, Volpe made recommendations on nonmotorized trail connections, vehicular signage and wayfinding, parking, pedestrian access, and shuttle feasibility. Volpe also worked with Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma to improve trail connectivity, pilot a bicycle share system, and explore a partner-provided transit connection to the neighboring military community. Similarly, Volpe worked with the White Mountain National Forest to explore car-free travel options in and around the forest.

Volpe also produced the National Park Service Active Transportation Guidebook, developed the alternative fuel vehicle selection guidelines for the Department of Interior, and researched electric tram opportunities for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Strategic Planning and Stakeholder Engagement

Provide transportation support to develop performance-based long range plans, engage stakeholders, and build consensus.

Cape Cod scenario planning workshop.The Public Lands Team works with units to craft long-term, fiscally-constrained transportation plans. For example, Volpe helped lead the development of the National Park Service’s first National Long Range Transportation Plan. The plan communicates a national vision for transportation within the agency, including a financial strategy and performance goals. Volpe provides national long-range transportation planning support to the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well. 

At the unit level, Volpe helped Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad develop goals, objectives, and performance measures to guide investment decisions for its railroad over the next 20 years, worked with Kaua’i National Wildlife Refuge to develop traffic congestion and visitor safety solutions for its 15-year management plan, and assisted the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and NPS with a plan for the new Pullman National Monument.

The Public Lands Team has extensive experience engaging federal lands stakeholders and the general public and facilitating sustained partnerships. For example, Volpe helped Cape Cod National Seashore, the regional planning commission, and local transit agency develop the Flex bus service connecting towns to the National Seashore. Recent projects include a shared-use maintenance facility, the Cape Cod and Central New Mexico Climate Change Scenario Planning Projects, and a transit marketing initiative.

Safety Analysis and Congestion Assessment

Analyze and develop safety programs that are threatened by safety issues.

Eight people wearing orange and yellow safety vests stand with clipboards along a road in a national park.

The Public Lands Team works with federal lands management agencies to improve safety through both national-level program development and site-level safety analyses. For example, since 2011 the team has supported the NPS with the development of its Transportation Safety Program, the agency’s first program focused on reducing nationwide fatalities and serious injury crashes on NPS roadways.

Volpe technical experts convene multidisciplinary teams to conduct road safety audits (RSAs) for parkways and priority parks using a “4Es” approach, including assessment and recommendations related to engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency response.

Technology Evaluation and Deployment

Propose and evaluate visitor use and advanced technologies.

The Public Lands Team helps federal lands units implement technologies that improve visitor information, reduce congestion, and track visitation. For example, Volpe worked with Gateway National Recreation Area on an automated entrance fee plaza and intelligent transportation system. Similarly, the Public Lands Team proposed and developed an integrated intelligent transportation system for seven beach parking areas in Cape Cod National Seashore. Volpe also created an interactive trip planning tool for Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Volpe is currently lending support to a vehicle counter calibration pilot in seven U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regions.

Updated: Thursday, January 3, 2019