Beauty on rails
Grand Canyon planning an automobile-free environment
By Joel Eskovitz
Rocky Mountain News
October 30, 2000
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. It's difficult to associate the vast,
peaceful expanses of the Grand Canyon with traffic congestion and
But with an average of 4,200 visitors an hour during peak seasons and only
about 2,000 parking spaces, the roads themselves have become parking lots.
Last week, the park took its first step toward reducing the traffic problem
by dedicating the Canyon View Information Plaza, which will become a hub for
a planned light-rail system to carry visitors inside the park.
It will one day virtually eliminate the need for cars here.
"It represents ... a vision which says we are going to restore the encounter
with God's creation," Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said at the
The light-rail system is expected to debut in early 2004, taking visitors
into the park from the nearby town of Tusayan, where there will be a
3,500-space parking lot.
Passengers will take an 81/2-minute ride to the visitor's center at a rate
of 4,200 people per hour. There will be another station within Grand Canyon
The National Park Service will award a contract next spring to design,
build, operate and maintain the light-rail system.
The plaza provides the first unobstructed view of the canyon from the South
Rim, which is only 1,000 feet away.
It also serves as an orientation center and a staging area for hiking the
Greenway trail and bicycling in the park. It is a stop as well for a park
shuttle that began running Thursday.
About 5 million people enter the park each year, creating heavy congestion
on roads. On a typical summer day, there are roughly three cars for every
The $26 million Canyon View Information Plaza replaces a 43-year-old visitor
center that closed Thursday. The plaza was largely paid for with money from
Carl Bowman, who has been the park's air-quality specialist for the past
nine years, said that while there is no quantitative data, the shift to a
transit system will reduce pollution in the park because there will be fewer
Complete story available at Denver Rocky Mountain News