NPS shuttles to serve SoCal mountain parklands
- Published Saturday, August 30, 2003, in the Los Angeles Daily News
Shuttle headed for parkland
Transit to target Santa Monica Mountains
By Kerry Cavanaugh
Next summer traffic-weary Valley hikers and sunbathers will be able
to hop a bus to Zuma Beach, the Backbone Trail, Malibu Creek State
Park and other hot spots in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The National Park Service will launch the Heart of the Park shuttle
system to transport people along a 20-mile loop through the Santa
Monica Mountains National Recreation Area -- the nation's most
visited national park.
The goal is to cut traffic and parking problems on remote rural
roads while opening up the national park to carless Angelenos.
"We have the ability now to make mountains accessible to people in
the inner city, especially the San Fernando Valley," said Woody
Smeck, superintendent of the national recreation area.
"And it's the environmentally right thing to do in terms of the
message of when you're in national park or a national recreation
area, consider leaving your car at home," Smeck added.
The $3 round-trip shuttle will run on the weekends at 30-minute
intervals. Visitors can park at trailheads or the Malibu Creek State
Park parking lot and catch the shuttle. The system also connects to
Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus line 161, which runs from
Canoga Park to Westlake Village, and line 434, which runs from Union
Station to Malibu.
That MTA connection is crucial to open up the parkland to youths,
the elderly and people who do not drive, said Bart Reed, executive
director with The Transit Coalition.
"We just don't have a lot of transit to recreation," Reed said. "We
spent literally hundreds of millions buying the land in the Santa
Monicas, and here's the tangible piece connecting people and the
The Heart of the Park Shuttle will cost about $250,000 a year --
with roughly $100,000 a year collected from riders. The shuttle is a
three-year demonstration project to see whether visitors will use
the system. Federal dollars are covering the bulk of the cost, with
the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy chipping in as much as
$200,000 for the first year.
Park officials figure roughly 30,000 people will use the bus system,
based on visitor surveys.
The loop will take riders along Pacific Coast Highway and through
beautiful stretches of chaparral-covered hills dotted with sandstone
formations. Rangers will occasionally ride on shuttles to point out
ecological and historical features.
"We hope this shuttle system will become a destination in and of
itself,' Smeck said.
Some people are skeptical that Angelenos will leave their cars at
home and choose to take the lengthy MTA bus ride to the
shuttle. "Nobody takes the bus to hike," said Ron Webster of the
Sierra Club's Santa Monica Mountain Task Force. "I suppose it could
work, but I somehow feel it wouldn't necessarily get a lot of use."
At 153,000 acres, the national recreation area is the largest urban
national park in the world. Its 46 miles stretch along the Santa
Monica Mountains from Point Mugu State Park to the Hollywood Bowl.
It is the most-visited park in the nation's park system, with 33
million people using the recreational local, state and federal
parkland each year.
The Park Service is increasingly looking at shuttle systems to
handle the visitors, vehicles and air pollution in famous spots such
as Yosemite and Zion national parks. But Santa Monica Mountains
officials are hoping to lure more visitors, including inner-city
families that otherwise might not have access to the parkland.
The National Park Service has already ordered five compressed-
natural-gas shuttle buses. Officials have selected 13 shuttle stops
along Kanan Dume Road, Mulholland Highway, Pacific Coast Highway and
Malibu Canyon Road, where they'll build modest, shaded bus stops and
Kerry Cavanaugh, (818) 713-3746 kerry.cavanaugh@...