Shuttles carried festivalgoers to their cars during Swiss Days in Santa Clara on Sept. 22, 2018. (Photo: Melissa Galbraith/The Spectrum & Daily News)
Since reopening the shuttle system in July, the Zion National Park shuttles have been filled to the brim while operating at limited capacity due to COVID-19.
Two weeks later, more shuttles by local vendor St. George Shuttle were put into the gateway town of Springdale to help the crowds there.
And now two months later, more shuttles are coming to Zion canyon via St. George Shuttle to help the ever-increasing amount of people escaping the indoors and into the country’s third most-visited national park.
On September 1, the Washington County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution adding one to two new buses provided by St. George Shuttle to more easily funnel people through the canyon from now to November 30.
The buses will cost around $800 per day according to Commissioner Gil Almquist, all of which would be funded with CARES Act money allotted to the county to help alleviate the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think everyone knows that park visitation took a great hit,” Almquist said in the meeting. But now, “with visitation up tremendously we thought, why not get a few more buses in there?”
Almquist detailed that a single bus can take seven trips a day and it is one hour and 15 minutes round-trip. These new buses, one on the weekdays and two on the weekends, will be worked into the regular schedule.
Visitation to the park, while it has taken a dip this year due to the pandemic, only saw 1,000 people less this Labor Day weekend as compared to last year, with over 68,000 people funneling into the park.
“People are still coming here from all over the world despite the impacts to tourism through other means,” Almquist said in the meeting, saying the county should “put our best foot forward” when it comes to public transportation.
Almquist called attention to the disgruntled comments he’s heard of about the transportation system around Zion, and he’s hopeful these new shuttles will help quell those.
More: Is the lack of a public transportation system in southern Utah hurting citizens and tourism?
Springdale and Zion are at the heart of multiple regional shuttle transportation systems in the works to connect the visitors and residents alike to essential hotspots in the area.
More: A St. George-to-Zion shuttle could be key to unlocking So. Utah public transportation
While these new shuttle additions are not permanent for Zion, there are pushes for a revamped shuttle system in the park as the current system is 21 years old and slowly falling apart.
More: Zion National Park’s shuttles are falling apart, but there is no funding to replace them. Why?
K. Sophie Will is the National Parks Reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News through the Report for America initiative by The GroundTruth Project. Follow her on Twitter at @ksophiewill or email her at [email protected]
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