JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - It has been years in the making, and finally, a new shuttle bus is in service at Joshua Tree National Park.
Beginning Feb. 1, the RoadRunner shuttle will take visitors to several designated stops in and around the park. The shuttles will leave every two hours from the Joshua Tree and Oasis Visitor Centers.
"So we've got about 6 or 7 stops inside the park," park superintendent David Smith told KESQ News Channel 3's and CBS Local 2's Katie Widner. "As you know congestion has been a big issue inside the park. So our goal from this process is to be able to have folks hop on the bus, leave their cars behind."
Some of the areas the shuttle will make stops at Jumbo Rocks campground, Ryan Mountain parking lot, Hidden Valley day use area, Intersection Rocks, Barker Dam and Upper Boy Scout Trail parking lot.
Officials hope the shuttle helps with traffic congestion that has come with the in visitation over the last five years. According to officials, park attendance visitation went from 1.3 million visitors to just shy of 3 million.
The shuttle service is free to use and there is even a way for folks who are in downtown Palm Springs to use public transit to get all the way up to the park and then inside.
"If they're at the airport in Palm Springs, or downtown Palm Springs, they can hop on one of the MBTA shuttle buses that comes to the high desert, get off in Joshua Tree and then just hop on one of our buses" Smith said.
The shuttle had been in the works for years and has been made possible through a partnership between the National Park Service and the Morongo Basin Transit Authority.
"The total project is $310,000. The park subsidy is approximately $230,000. The remaining amount is coming from a low carbon transit funding grant," said Mark Goodale, the general manger of the MBTA.
At this point, Goodale said, the shuttle is only a trial program.
"We will be looking at ridership numbers every month," he said. " Seeing what stops are used the most."
He said if the shuttles can get 25-thousand people to ride, it will be considered a successful program. The service will run every day (except for holidays) through the end of April and will pick back up in November.
Those looking to take advantage of the shuttle will still need to purchase passes into the park, which can be done at any visitor's center location.