Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Yosemite Follow-Up!

As always, being in Yosemite was an inspiring experience.  The main difference this year from recent years was the amount of water.  I’ve never seen the waterfalls flowing so heavily; there was a little flooding here and there, but nothing serious.

So being there is as wonderful as ever.  However, getting there and dealing with the vehicular and human congestion that is an existential reality these days is a major disincentive.  Inside the park we encountered bridge, road and parking construction projects that slowed traffic to a crawl.  We inched forward a car length at a time for hours.  I’m not exaggerating – it took us an extra 2½ hours to go the last few miles.  Once in the queue on what is a one-lane one-way road there is no way out.

Maybe when the construction is complete the traffic will ease.  But I wouldn’t count on it.  Why?  People and the vehicles they drive.  From 1984 to 2014 the number of visitors to Yosemite was in the 3 million a year range.  In 2015 it was 4 million something.  In 2016 it was more than 5 million.  Estimates for this year are that visitors will exceed 6 million.  Unless limits are put in place, the inevitable congestion will continue to worsen.

A few years ago foreign visitors accounted for 9% of the total.  These days, given the languages I heard on my visit this year and the last two, my estimate is that more than half the visitors are from outside the U.S.  I don’t think we should impose quotas and limit the number of foreign visitors.  I do think we should impose quotas and limit the total number (wherever they come from) to a manageable size.  Same with vehicles. 

Given the Internet, implementing an advance reservation system wouldn’t be difficult.  What will be difficult is agreeing that it should be done.  An employee of the park told us that income from Yosemite is used to subsidize national parks that are not financially viable, a clear disincentive to reduce Yosemite’s revenue.  And many members of the public will cry foul if limits are imposed.  Too bad!  There is no point in destroying the incredibly positive experience that Yosemite now provides by allowing overcrowding to continue.

The time to take action is now!


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