"The List" is dead
The grand canyon FEIS is out. I just read through the document a little and the waiting list is scrapped.
In a nutshell, this is what the new system will look like:
Permits will be issued by a new "hybrid" lottery system where you earn one chance for every year between the last time you WENT on a grand trip (includes as trip leaders or passengers, and both private or commercial trips). However, it caps chances at five years, so that you won't have people accumulating 20-30 chances in the system. Also, you can list alternate trip leaders on the application. On weird thing about it is that they plan to issue cancellations through the lottery as well. Most lottery systems just dump them on a phone line first come first serve. This is a new approach, so we'll see how it works out.
Transition phase out of the current list
There will be 3 phases, which will eliminate the list in about a 6 month time frame after the ROD is signed (probably in December - January). There are currently about 7200 people on the list.
Phase 1, one shot of 600 launches will be issued for dates between 2007-2011 via normal wait list rules.
Phase 2, wait list members will be allowed to combine wait times with other members to get a higher priority. You'll have about 2 months to do this. Then another round of 600 dates for 2007 - 2011 will be issued according to the new priority.
Phase 3, the wait list is eliminated. Those unsuccessful in stages 1 and 2 will have to choose between two options:
Option 1 - you can take extra weighted chances in the new lottery based on the number of years you waited. These are in addition to the chances you earn in the new lottery system, and they stay with you until you either succeed in getting a permit or attend a grand trip.
Option 2 - accept a refund and leave the list.
What is interesting is the park service's analysis of how likely current list members are to get a permit in the next 20 years under this transition plan. They estimate that if list members who are successful in phase 2 combine in groups of 3 or more, about 2400 or a third currently on the list will get permits quite soon, in addition to the 600 from phase 1. Of course those who combine waits will have to agree to share their permit somehow. If all of the remaining unsuccessful 4300 members apply for the lottery every year until they get a permit, they estimate that half are likely to receive permits in the next 10 years, and that no more than 560 will still have been unsuccessful after 20 years.
However, all of that is based on several assumptions which may or may not hold true. They assumed that many people on the list will be eager to combine their wait in a relatively short time frame, so that they can eliminate a large number of people from the list. Also, they assumed a total of 7000 applicants to the new system each year, and that fails to account for any population growth over the next 20 years. However, that may be somewhat counterbalanced as some people will probably loose interest, miss lotteries, or participate in other trips.
Realistically, those towards the front of the list have a pretty good chance of landing something in the coming months. However, those who are towards the back are probably going to end up vying for permits in the lottery.