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Know the West

Cars to get the boot


Cars are on their way to the endangered list in three of the country's most popular parks. The National Park Service wants to replace private cars with light rail in Grand Canyon and expand bus systems in Yosemite and Zion national parks by 2000. "The problem isn't too many people, it's too many cars," Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said when announcing the plan in Washington, D.C., last fall.

Two million people a year visited Arizona's Grand Canyon in the early 1970s. Now the figure is 5 million, in a park where 6,500 cars compete for 2,400 parking spaces during the summer. At California's Yosemite park, 7,000 cars crowd the scenic 1.6-mile loop road daily during the summer; 4 million people visit the park annually. The transit plans are at draft stage, subject to public comment and more study, and the timetable of 2000 seems optimistic. Grand Canyon's plan calls for a $67 million light rail system that would carry 47,000 visitors a day from a transport hub south of the park to the canyon's South Rim, the most visited section. Yosemite and Zion opted for cheaper shuttle bus systems. "I'm hoping the tradeoff is a good one," says Linda Wallace, chairwoman of the Sierra Club Yosemite Committee in Davis, Calif. "Certainly some will say (leaving the car behind) is too inconvenient. But some people have stayed away because of congestion, and there will be a lot of curiosity on their part when Yosemite has fewer cars."

To get on an information and comment list, write Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023. Write Yosemite National Park at P.O. Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389, and write Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767. Address all letters to the Office of the Superintendent.