About 90 percent of visitors arrive in the park by private vehicle with the result that congestion is often a problem on routes into the park and at parking lots. Noise and air pollution problems are also associated with the traffic. In 1999, to relieve congestion, Acadia National Park began offering free bus service during the peak summer months over six routes connecting local towns and park property. The bus service has been very successful. To further reduce the problems associated with park traffic, Acadia was chosen for an ITS Field Operational Test (FOT). The FOT involved the deployment of nine ITS components to provide real-time traveler information to travelers to road and bus users. Bus components included two-way voice communications, automatic vehicle location, electronic bus departure signs, automated annunciators on-board buses, and automatic passenger counters. Traffic management components included parking lot monitoring and traffic volume recorders at Park entrances. Deployment of the ITS components took place over a two year period beginning in 2000. This lesson is based on the findings presented in a national evaluation of the Acadia ITS FOT.
Evaluators of the Acadia FOT found that ITS contributed to a positive visitor experience and increased visitors'willingness to use transit rather than their own vehicles. Greater use of the Island Explorer appeared to be associated with improvements in air quality and possibly to overall traffic and motor vehicle crashes. Visitors used and reacted positively to the real-time parking information, despite the limited deployment of signs at three locations and the Park Website. In addition to the positive reviews of the ITS enhancements, length of stay by visitors, a measure of economic impact, was positively correlated with use of the Island Explorer and with use of ITS technologies associated with the bus.
Despite these benefits many business managers did not know of the ITS based traveler information technologies, particularly the parking availability information at locations around the Park and the Park's web page.
- Nearly two-thirds of business managers (61 percent) reported being unaware of any of the ITS-based traveler information technologies.
- Of those business managers who reported being aware of at least one of the traveler information sources:
- 80 percent were aware of the electronic signs that displayed real time departures of the next Island Explorer bus.
- 45 percent were aware of the audio announcement of the next Island Explorer bus stop.
- 40 percent were aware of the parking availability information on the displayed signs at the Parks' visitor center and campgrounds.
- 25 percent reported being aware of the parking availability information on the Park's Web page.
There was also a great deal of uncertainty among business managers about whether visitors who use the Island Explorer tend to stay longer. Thus, regardless of the increased positive experiences that might result from customer use of the ITS technologies and probable use of the Island Explorer bus, managers did not necessarily perceive economic benefit to businesses in terms of increased length of stay. This may have contributed to a substantial minority of business manager being "neutral" to parking and Island Explorer traveler information being helpful to their business.
The evaluation provides several suggestions for deployers of traveler-oriented ITS, particularly in tourism areas:
- Market ITS to enhance its effectiveness.
The full benefits of ITS targeted at travelers, such as traveler information systems, will not be realized if they are unaware of them. Consequently, deployers must give serious consideration and effort to raising awareness among the targeted audiences. Marketing can take many forms -- media advertising, handouts, and dynamic message signs, among others -- with varying costs. Development of a cost-effective marketing strategy, therefore, is an important element of deployment planning.
- Use tourism businesses to market ITS in tourist areas.
Informing tourists about ITS-based traveler information can be a major marketing challenge. Major tourist destinations draw visitors from all over the country and abroad and it can be difficult to determine the sources of information they use in planning a trip. Once they are at the destination, visitors are barraged with all sorts of written material and visual information and it may be difficult for them see the traveler information material amidst all the clutter. Word of mouth, especially from a reliable source such as a shop owner, hotel manager, or tourism bureau worker can be a very cost-effective means for raising awareness about ITS in a tourist setting.
- Educate tourism businesses and tourism organizations about the benefits of ITS, particularly economic benefits.
Getting tourism businesses and tourism organizations to provide information to tourists about the benefits of ITS is more likely when they themselves are aware of the benefits of ITS. Businesses will be most receptive to such overtures when they perceive an economic benefit for themselves and the local economy in general.
The deployers of ITS in Acadia National Park made no concerted effort to raise awareness of the ITS based traveler information technologies among tourist-related businesses. Nor were the benefits of the technologies, among them a positive contribution to the local economy, promoted to these businesses. Based on this experience, marketing the use of ITS enhancements and the benefits to tourist-related businesses would appear to be a relatively simple and cost-effective method of raising utilization among tourists and a way to increase the benefits of deployment such as reducing congestion and harm to the environment and improving safety.