Friday, July 31, 2009

Been Stuck in an Internet Traffic Jam

So, it has been about a month since my last post. My internet access has been intermittent at best, since I have not been spending a lot of time in the office recently. I have a lot to talk about, this may be a long one, so try and keep up. I hope not to bore you.

Per the usual format, I will be talking about work stuff first, then getting into all the fun I have had over the past month. Since the fourth of July I have been doing a lot of out of office work revolving around vehicle counts, and other observations, but initially I will cover the things I have been doing in office.

I finally received electronic versions of the Ranger's case logs and started creating sample sets for the different types of violations written. These violations ranged from speeding, to DUIs and everything in between. Once I had created these groups, I determined the appropriate sample sizes so that I could represent the data plus/minus 5% of the actual results. Once the appropriate sample sizes were determined, I went through the individual reports to collect place of residence data. This would be used to determine where the people who were being issued citations lived. Were they locals? Tourists? Commuters? Commercial Vehicles? Currently I have populated my worksheets with data from 2009 and 2008. I will most likely complete 2007 either later today or early next week. This type of analysis should help determine how to more effectively manage the enforcement policies on the roads, and educate users specific user groups about the consequences.

In addition, I have been in touch with Jennifer Proctor, who works in the Park Facility Management Division. She is responsible for compiling motor vehicle accident reports for all the NPS units. We discussed what type of data she had available to her and what may be useful in my analysis. She was able to send me COLM motor vehicle accident data from 1989 - 2005. 2005 is the last year they have records for because they are in the process of switching to a new reporting database that has not been completed yet and have not entered the most recent years of data. This should still prove very useful for me in determining the most dangerous sections of Rimrock Drive and to determine the appropriate actions to make it safer. She also mentioned that her department is preparing a nationwide and regional safety studies, that when completed may be useful in comparing what is happening at COLM with other NPS units.

I have also been continuing my analysis of the NPS Public Use Statistics. Butch Street, who compiles the data for all the NPS units, was extremely helpful in giving me access to the raw data that he uses to calculate visitation. This assisted me in getting strictly vehicle counts for the East & West Gate, as well as the two roads entering from Glade Park. Since acquiring that data, I have been able to determine some high and low estimates of vehicle count growth rates over time, for both recreational and non-recreational vehicles.

Another woman who I have been in touch with is Elizabeth Stolz, who works for CDOT. She has recently completed a survey and analysis of how municipalities deal with Federal lands when conducting traffic analyses. Although I have not had a chance to go through these materials in depth yet, I believe they will be helpful to understand when I begin meeting with local traffic engineers to discuss what is being done in the surrounding communities to understand how the traffic patterns from COLM affect local arterials and vice versa.

Lastly, I have begun vehicle counts and observations to get a better idea of specific safety issues and more detailed understanding of daily/hourly traffic patterns, since the NPS data is only available on a monthly basis. I have started by doing hourly vehicle counts at the East Gate to determine daily traffic patterns. I also broke the vehicles down into two groups, those recreating in the park and those going to/from Glade Park. As you can imagine since the Glade Park vehicles are mostly commuters, the two groups have drastically different patterns. I have also started counting vehicle/cyclist/pedestrian interactions at one of the busier spots on Rimrock Drive. At this location there are trailheads on both sides of the road, a picnic area on one side, and a parking lot on either side. This leads to a tremendous amount of foot traffic across the road, as well as vehicles turning across traffic to enter and exit the parking lots. Below is an image of the area.

The safety issues at this location are significant given the lack of traffic control devices in place to keep everyone safe. In the coming weeks, I will be doing observations and counts at both roads that lead to Glade Park, as well as the East Tunnel, which is the longest at COLM, measuring over 500 feet. The tunnel should be particularly interesting given the low height and the propensity for larger vehicles to cross of the center line. Again, another safety issue that will need to be addressed in my final report. Although the days are long and hot, in the end the data will be extremely useful in my final analysis and recommendations.

Now on to the fun stuff!

Can you believe that during work they actually let me hike? Well believe it. It was another amazing hike, this time through Ute Canyon. I was accompanied by Eric Sandstrom, one of the interpreters at COLM. He has a great understanding of wildlife in the area and we got to see a number of different lizards, birds, and butterflies on the hike. Although the end of the hike, back out of the canyon, was dreadful. The elevation gain over such a short distance really tried me, I guess I wasn't as in shape as I thought. It was gorgeous though, and definitely worth the effort. A couple of the views can be seen below.

As I mentioned before, the days are hot here, even weirder is that it keeps getting warmer until about 6pm. Something I am just not used to. And if you don't believe me, check out the picture below.

And due to these hot and dry conditions, it is also fire season around here. Luckily the Monument has not had too many serious issues. The picture below is just one of the many fires that have erupted in the surrounding areas. This one was located just south of the Colorado river between Fruita and Loma, but there have been others in the Bookcliffs, and in Glade Park.

Even though, there is such intense heat, there is a rainy season and it seems to have started a bit earlier than normal. About a week back, we started having some really cool thunderstorms. They even cause a mild rock slide on Rimrock Drive and the section of road had to be closed for awhile until it was cleaned properly. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the rock slide, but below is a photo I took during one of the storms.

When I was doing my observations in the East Gate, a lot of people kept saying they were going to the "potholes" in Glade Park. They said it was some sort creek and swimming hole with a couple cool cliffs to jump. My neighbor, Palma, and I decided to go up there one day and see what all the fuss was about. It was a really cool spot and the jump was a good twenty feet. It took me a couple minutes to get up the confidence to jump, but once I did there was no stopping. And in the picture, you can't see where you land, you follow the arrow another 10 feet down. Although, this time I wasn't doing any backflips. The pictures below are looking downstream.

It was also my birthday a couple weeks back, nothing too exciting though. I spent most of the day counting cars, but was able to go out a bit later with co-workers and friends to Pablo's. They have fantastic pizza, and cheap beer on Tuesday nights. Quite fitting that it landed on my birthday. All in all, a very quiet and low-key 28th birthday. Yikes, I can't believe I am 28! I guess the important part is I don't feel 28, right?

Until next time...

PS. For those of you that love to drive and text, or drive and talk on your cell, check this article/video out:



  1. I'm famous! :D And it took you more then a "few minutes" to do jump, not that I'm in any position to judge...

  2. Adam, I am "trying" to follow along with all the work you do that you're describing!
    I miss those beautiful mountains.
    Happy belated BIRTHDAY and be careful with those jumps. A little fear is a healthy thing ;)