This Field Operational Test (FOT) examined the deployment of ITS traveler information at the Acadia National Park in Maine. ITS technologies such as automated vehicle location (AVL), real time electronic arrival signs, automated in-vehicle annunciator systems, automated in-vehicle passenger counting systems, and website and telephone traveler information services were deployed as a way to disseminate more accurate and timely information to visitors regarding on-site parking, bus arrival and departure times, and traffic congestion. In-vehicle ITS such as next-stop audio annunciator systems and electronic display signs were installed to help passengers reach target destinations. In addition, in-terminal electronic message signs were installed to inform visitors of updated bus arrival and departure times at three of the most popular visitor destinations (Visitor Center, Jordan Pond House, and the Village Green at Bar Harbor). ITS also assisted travelers who drove themselves. Real-time parking information was made available on the Acadia website, at the Visitor Center, and on static parking signs at two of the most popular parking lots.
Acadia National Park receives more than two million visitors each year. In 1999, prior to ITS in Acadia, the Park Service began offering a free shuttle bus service to better manage traffic congestion. The shuttle service dubbed "The Island Explorer," was expected enhance aesthetics by decreasing the number of vehicles parked alongside roads, reduce congestion, increase mobility, and increase safety with improved emergency response. The new shuttle service was well received by visitors, and in 2000, operations were expanded and public and private funds were made available to incorporate several new ITS technologies. To evaluate impacts of ITS on the new bus service, the USDOT and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) conducted a Field Operational Test (FOT). The primary goal was to measure the impacts of ITS on the "quality of visitors' experience" in terms of customer satisfaction and mobility.
Between July 29, 2002 and September 1, 2002, intercept surveys were conducted on the Island Explorer and at a number of selected sites within the park. Visitors were asked about their awareness, use, and experience with ITS in the park. These interviews along with a more extensive mail-back questionnaire were offered to visitors in order to garner more specific information on four of six central FOT evaluation objectives: customer satisfaction, mobility, productivity, economic vitality, energy, and environment. A total of 1,278 visitors were intercepted and 928 visitor responses were received and analyzed.
There was no significant difference between the ITS users and ITS non-users in terms of access to desired destinations. Thirty-four (34) percent of visitors (ITS and non-ITS users) who drove their own vehicles encountered traffic congestion and 42 percent of visitors who drove encountered parking problems. Most respondents indicated they had a high-quality experience regardless of using (or not using) traveler information.
Interestingly however, 80 percent of bus passengers who used electronic departure signs, and 44 percent of bus passengers who experienced real time parking information reported it helped them decide to ride a bus. The author noted that ITS-users expressed more concern about travel issues in general than non-ITS users and sought means to alleviate those concerns via ITS and the Island Explorer. Non-users, however, were either less sensitive to travel conditions or had strategies for coping with problems that didn’t involve the need for Island Explorer or ITS.