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.
Most visitors who experienced ITS at Acadia indicated the information they received was accurate, clearly understandable, and easy to use. Forty (40) to 55 percent of visitors reported awareness of four of the following six new services and 28 to 34 percent of visitors reported using them.
SOURCE OF INFORMATION
|Parking availability (Park staff/signs)|
|Electronic Island Explorer arrival signs|
|Acadia National Park website|
|Island Explorer automated annunciator|
|Island Explorer website|
|Park traveler information (telephone system)|
Seventy-four (74) percent of visitors who saw parking availability information reported these technologies made it easier to get around.
The author noted that the "FOT evaluation may reflect to some degree visitors' use of the Island Explorer bus itself as compared to the traveler information." In addition, caution should be used in projecting these results to Park visitors in general since visitors were surveyed in a number of different locations having one or more traveler information sources.