U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Regional Alternative Transportation Evaluation Reports
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Volpe conducted regional alternative transportation evaluations (RATEs) in seven of the eight FWS regions. The RATE helps FWS identify alternative transportation systems (ATS) needs and opportunities at individual FWS stations and trends throughout each region. ATS, which includes any travel means other than a personal vehicle, including transit, nonmotorized transportation (walking and bicycling), and water-based transportation, can address FWS goal areas such as resource protection, safety, and environmental education and solve station-level pollution, congestion, and access issues. RATEs give FWS the opportunity to assess the applicability of ATS at individual stations and integrate needs into national and regional long-range transportation plans (LRTPs) for later implementation.
The Region 1 (Idaho, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington) RATE was meant to serve as a pilot for the integration of ATS into the regional LRTP. Several stations in Region 1 already use transit for festivals, working closely with community and regional partners as well as transit providers to rent vehicles. Some stations found potential for ATS as a tool to help increase their visitation and interpretive services. Other stations expressed reluctance to pursue ATS based on limited staffing to manage existing (or growing) visitation. Finally, the RATE team identified mechanisms to integrate ATS into the LRTP, including the creation of new text for the sustainability goal area and an ATS Appendix.
The Region 2 (Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas) RATE found that county and state roads leading into Region 2 stations are often in poor condition and can degrade the visitor experience, discourage visitation, and be unsafe for visitors. Opportunities exist to establish better connections to gateway communities, both through improving roads and through adding multimodal options. In many instances, stations are successfully partnering or are attempting to partner with gateway communities to expand access to stations using ATS. The RATE also suggests the use of ATS to balance resource protection and educational and recreation access for visitors.
The Region 3 (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin) RATE examined refuges and hatcheries in the midwest region to ensure effective consideration and integration of ATS into the goals and recommendations of the Region 3 LRTP. The majority of Region 3 stations are located far from population centers, and their staff often have limited awareness of the benefits of ATS. The RATE team found that education about the benefits of ATS is a key first step to increasing its use throughout the region. Other improvements may include improved nonmotorized infrastructure for access to and within stations, partnering with gateway communities to leverage funding for new trail connections or to use buses for special events, and integrating ATS features into roads projects.
The Region 4 (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands) RATE discovered that many stations are not aware of the benefits of alternative transportation, in terms of visitor and resource management and cost savings. The RATE report helped increase that awareness and identified specific opportunities for stations. Additionally, the RATE helped to ensure consideration and integration of alternative transportation systems and access for underserved communities into the goals and recommendations of the Region 4 LRTP.
The Region 5 (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont) RATE found most visitors in the northeast region currently access stations by personal vehicles, but the RATE team also found opportunities for increased multimodal access. First, the station staff in Region 5 appear to have a high awareness of and interaction with transportation systems, and in particular with alternative transportation. Second, Region 5 refuges tend to be located closer to major urban areas with greater potential for connections to transit and trails. Finally, the region has several successful examples of internal tram and bus tours operated by partner groups, although there are currently no refuge operated systems.
The Region 6 (Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) RATE found that visitors to many stations enjoy activities that could be enriched through ATS, at least for special events or on busy weekends and/or days during the peak season. With families having the highest percentage of visitation in the region, there is an opportunity to facilitate greater outdoor recreation and fewer vehicle trips by providing more bicycle and pedestrian facilities and transit service as well. Though some stations are located in remote areas in this region, internal ATS improvements can be successful in all locations if visitation levels are relatively high. ATS improvements that connect to refuges are more likely to be successful in more urban areas.
The Region 8 (California and Nevada) RATE found that while some stations are more isolated in rural areas and others are closer to dense population centers, ATS can be improved and expanded across the region. It is just as important for rural stations to partner with nearby transit systems, especially for special events or peak visitation days, as they are often small and could use extra support. Region 8 also has several refuges near large urban areas with existing or nearby ATS connections from those areas to the refuge. These connections can be strengthened, encouraged, and promoted. The region has been experiencing significant population growth; ATS can be a healthy and cost-effective way to accommodate new visitors to the region’s stations.