Publication Detail

Yosemite Area Traveler Information (YATI) System User, Institutional and System Performance Evaluations for the July 1996 to June 1997 Field Operational Test


Research Report

Suggested Citation:
Kurani, Kenneth S., Thomas S. Turrentine, L. Dantas, Paul P. Jovanis (1997) Yosemite Area Traveler Information (YATI) System User, Institutional and System Performance Evaluations for the July 1996 to June 1997 Field Operational Test. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-97-14

The Yosemite Area Traveler Information (YATI) system utilizes changeable message signs (CMS), highway advisory radio (HAR), electronic interactive kiosks, and a site on the World Wide Web to provide information and advisories to travelers to the Yosemite region. YATI's Management Board represents the diverse local, state, and federal governments and agencies who share jurisdiction over the region. The system is currently funded as a field operational test (FOT) of intelligent transportation technologies applied in a rural, regional context. The FOT period, initially scheduled to run from June 1996 to June 1997, was extended to June 1998.

This evaluation is based largely on data gathered during the first year FOT. It includes evaluations of the following:
  • user response to YATI information systems;
  • attainment of YATI's congestion reduction, mobility enhancement, and tourism promotion and preservation goals;
  • institutional issues in the formation and functioning of YATI; and,
  • technical systems performance.
Where appropriate, results of this report are supplemented with information from a pre-FOT evaluation conducted in 1994.

Evidence from the user evaluation suggests that the YATI system can impact travel in the region in ways that are consistent with YATI's goals, even if uniform progress was not demonstrated in achieving all those goals. YATI information systems had a limited effect on travelers' perceptions of congestion and other traffic related measures. Controlling for the week of the respondents' trip and their entry route into the Park, the length of time visitors reported waiting at a Yosemite National Park entrance explained their rating of traffic conditions during their trip into the Park; neither the YATI CMS nor HAR had any impact on these perceptions. Similarly, their response to specific travel and traffic conditions shaped their assessment of how well traffic was managed in Yosemite ValIey; YATI information did not affect this assessment.

More encouraging results were found for mobility and tourism goals. Controlling for the use of any other pre-trip planning information, users of the YATI Web site appeared to have spent more nights in the region than did non-users. Kiosk and Web site users appeared to have visited more diverse parts of Yosemite National Park; but they did not visit more diverse towns and sites throughout the whole region. Use of YATI information systems does not explain satisfaction ratings given to the overall experience of their trip to Yosemite; but as so many travelers gave high scores to their overall perception of their trip to Yosemite, it would be difficult for any explanatory variables to explain differences in these trip ratings.

YATI is an institutional success. As of 1991, there was no institution at the regional level to integrate and disseminate traveler information in the Yosemite region. YATI has provided a forum which fosters a more cooperative and regional approach to the travel and economic problems and opportunities in the region. In this general sense, YATI has accomplished one of the most touted goals of the National Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program: it has galvanized local, regional, state and national interest which, along with the private sector, has resulted in the construction and deployment of a system capable of integrating the region.

We found no evidence that the technical performance of the system was systematically tested prior to, or during, the FOT. Such testing might have revealed problems with some YATI information components. We make a distinction between "developmental" problems, that can reasonably be expected in the course of building any new information system, and "structural" problems that seem to be inherent in the current technical and operational structure of YATI.

Perhaps foremost among the structural problems, the kiosk hardware and software require improvement. The kiosks are too susceptible to interruptions in power supply; no viable system overhead software was implemented. In their current state of development, the kiosks are not ready to be moved out of the protective confines of visitor information centers and into stand-alone use.

We also believe the current protocols for updating information represent a structural problem. Compared to the centralized information management system described by the technical contractor, the actual information management system is fragmented. Multiple interventions by system operators are currently required to post the same information update to the various YATI information sub-systems.

With respect to technical measures of system performance, the most outstanding achievement of YATI to date is the resiliency and determination of its participating members to solve developmental problems. That is, the institutional development and strength of YATI has sustained technical and operating improvements. One institutional challenge still facing YATI is the need to develop a self-sustaining system. The first steps toward self-sufficiency included the act of incorporating a non-profit organization. Continued progress towards the goals of congestion reduction, mobility enhancement, and tourism promotion and preservation will depend on the continued participation and commitment of the diverse interests represented in YATI.