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Yosemite Shies Away From Car Ban

August 4, 1998

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. (AP) _ Regional officials have rejected a federal proposal to ban most cars from the valley of Yosemite National Park, instead recommending a voluntary program using shuttle buses to reduce traffic.

Monday’s 5-1 vote by the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation Strategies, representing the park and five nearby counties, was technically an advisory decision, but it effectively blocks any plan to evict all cars.

Officials of the surrounding counties feared that banning cars would drive away tourists and that the need for buses and locally funded parking spaces outside Yosemite would cost millions.

Environmentalists and the National Park Service had proposed eight months ago to eliminate car travel in the valley for all but overnight visitors.

In recent years, traffic has been so bad on some summer weekends the park’s gates had to be shut, and conservationists fear that people are loving Yosemite to death. Last year, 3.8 million people visited the park.

Under a two-year bus pilot program starting next June, visitors would be offered rides on 16 buses that would run from June 1 to Sept. 15. The cost of a ride hasn’t been determined.

If the program succeeds in luring visitors out of their cars, more buses would be added over a 10-year period.

Even the park’s representative voted in favor of the scaled-back plan.

The lone vote against the plan was cast by Mark Thornton, representative of Tuolumne County, who said there was no evidence that buses would reduce pollution and congestion in Yosemite Valley.

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