First, a shout out to the 88 people who attended my Talk today at the Livermore Library and the 25 who heard me at Trilogy in Brentwood. Welcome to the blog!
A few weeks ago I blogged about the Yosemite Rapid Transit System. YARTS Transit Manager and Blog Reader Dick Whittington, provided me with current information to set the record straight. YARTS is a public transit system and not a “for profit” enterprise as I had thought. They began operations in 2000 and they remain the only public transit system serving Yosemite. Their fleet of nine diesel powered buses operates year round on Hwy 140 between Merced and Yosemite. During the busy June – September months, it runs routes between Yosemite Valley and Mono County via Tioga Road. This bus is very popular with hikers heading to the upper back country.
In 2012, there is a daily round trip between Sonora and Yosemite Valley, and two additional round trips between Groveland and the Valley on weekends and holidays. On Hwy 140 between Merced and Yosemite, through Mariposa, there are two additional runs, one starting and finishing in Merced and the other in Mariposa. More service on the Mono County route will be added in 2012. Along with the traditional daily trip between Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite Valley, three additional runs will move back and forth between Lee Vining and Tuolumne Meadows daily in July and August. Service for visitors in Sonora will be available through the summer. One run will operate between Sonora and the park daily and two additional runs will be operating on weekends and holidays from May 14 through September 30. For full schedule information see the YARTS website.
All of the expanded service is an attempt by the Park Service to encourage the use of alternative transportation to travel to the park and help reduce the congestion and improve the quality of visit for everyone. These state of the art busses cost over half a million dollars each and are powered by certified Cummins “clean-diesel” engines. These engines are said to run as clean or cleaner than Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses. They are the cleanest running heavy duty diesel engines approved by the California Air Resources Board. The reliability of the diesel engine is critical since these busses must run between 200 feet and nearly 10,000 feet of elevation as they traverse from Merced and over Tioga Pass. YARTS buses have never had an injury accident in its 12 years of operation. They are the first public transit agency buses in the nation to provide American Seating seats with 3-point belts and baby seat tie-downs for rider safety.
Did you know that it is possible for visitors to come to the Yosemite region using public transit the whole way? YARTS meets Greyhound and Amtrak in Merced. It is possible for anyone to purchase an Amtrak ticket to Yosemite (or any destination that is served by YARTS) from anywhere. The train brings them to Merced and YARTS takes them the rest of the way. YARTS also connects with “The Crest” in Mammoth Lakes. The Crest travels along Hwy 395 between the Reno airport and Lancaster (Metrolink). Horizon Airlines flies into Mammoth Lakes and Great Lakes Airlines flies into Merced. One “green” hiker from Berkeley used BART to get to Amtrak in Emeryville, took Amtrak to Merced, YARTS to the park, walked the John Muir Trail to Mt. Whitney, caught “The Crest” in Lone Pine (to Mammoth Lakes), rode YARTS from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite Valley, another YARTS bus to Merced, Amtrak back to the bay area, and BART home. It was a 3 ½ week trip and he never had to drive to do it.
The ever increasing number of park visitors (over 4 million) is leading YARTS management to look at a bigger fleet to deal with the anticipated growth and to back up the existing vehicles for maintenance, etc. Try public transport on your next trip to the park – be part of the solution!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “On the road again – Just can’t wait to get on the road again. The life I love is making music with my friends and I can’t wait to get on the road again.” – Willie Nelson
*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com