Life in the Fast Lane
With a record 5-million-plus visitors last year, Yosemite, known for its stunning scenery, has developed a reputation for something quite unwanted: traffic.
Best way to avoid it? Climb aboard the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System [YARTS].
“Every time I ride the bus into the park, I see something I’ve never seen before,” says Dick Whittington, YARTS transit manager. “The freedom of not having to watch the road is astonishing. You are up high, and the windows are big. It’s a heck of a way to see the area around the park.”
And that's a testimonial coming from a self-proclaimed “driver” who lumps himself in with the majority of “Californians who like to drive.”
Multiple YARTS Stops
YARTS serves locations along four major routes into the park.
- Hwy. 120/395 starting in Mammoth Lakes on the east side of the park.
- Hwy. 120 starting in Sonora to the west of the park
- Hwy. 41 originating in Fresno.
- Hwy. 140 starting in Merced.
Along the way to the park, YARTS has stops at designated park and ride lots, campgrounds and RV parks.
Whittington recommends showing up at the YARTS stop early to beat the crowds and to ensure your watch is in sync with the YARTS drivers’ atomic clocks. The bus drivers don’t leave a stop until their clocks hit the scheduled departure time, says Whittington. Before boarding, you can load any strollers, backpacks, bikes or luggage into the stowage area.
Once aboard the air-conditioned bus equipped with a restroom, you can even strap your baby car seat into a three-point seat belt. Whittington says YARTS was the first public transportation agency in the country to use three-point seat belts.
Ride Free Park Shuttle
As you enter the park, YARTs buses get to use the “bus-only” lane when park traffic is heavy, which means less time for you in a vehicle and more time outdoors in the park. Once you’re in the Yosemite Valley, you can get to where you want to go by taking the free park shuttle. It serves the valley, El Capitan, Tuolumne Meadows (in the summer) and the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, previously called Badger Pass (in winter). Without having to worry about where to park at trailheads or visitor centers, you can maximize your time in the park.
And at the end of the day, you don’t have to worry about the drive home.
“I had friends in from Ohio, and we rode the bus to and from the park,” says Whittington. “We walked everywhere we went. At the end of the day, we got on the bus, and I tell you I was tired. I leaned back and was never so glad to have someone else drive in my life.”
For more information:
Tickets start at $6 and are distance based. To check the fare from a specific location, visit www.yarts.com or call 877-989-2787. Seniors and persons with disabilities receive a discount. One youth (12 or younger) rides free with a paying adult. Additional kids receive a discounted price.