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April 20, 2017 – Rocky Mountain Outlook. Story by Cathy Ellis. 

Parks Canada plans to have a free shuttle service between Banff and Lake Louise this summer, as well as the Minnewanka Loop, to deal with anticipated traffic and congestion nightmares in the national park.

The federal agency has put out two requests for proposal for the daily services, which they hope to have up and running by the Victoria Day May long weekend, in time for the busier than usual summer expected with free entry to national parks.

In addition, Parks Canada is working with Calgary Regional Partnership to have On-It Transit service run from Calgary and nearby communities to Banff and Canmore this summer.

“The Calgary service hasn’t been agreed to yet, but the hope is that would start by late June,” said Greg Danchuk, Parks Canada’s visitor experience manager for Banff National Park.

“We’re looking at the May long weekend for Lake Louise and Minnewanka. It would be a pilot, but we feel this is the way to go to provide better opportunities and reduce the number of cars.”

The Minnewanka Loop shuttle service, with many stops along the way, will be in addition to the Roam bus service that Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission will offer as a two-year summer pilot, starting on the Victoria Day long weekend.

There will also be a park-and-ride lot at the former Cascade overflow campground, where people can park their vehicles and take the bus to Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake or Bankhead.

The Banff to Lake Louise shuttle would be an hourly service, connecting with the existing summer bus run in Lake Louise to Upper Lake Louise until early September, and then to Moraine Lake in the fall when throngs of tourist are drawn to turning larch trees.

Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen welcomes the additional transit.

“When I envision visitors coming to Banff National Park, mass transit needs to be part of the solution to some of our challenges,” she said.

“If concerns of even more vehicular traffic within Banff and the national park was the catalyst for this, I think whatever efforts are made in 2017 will be seen moving forward.”

Meanwhile, Parks Canada has been working with Calgary Regional Partnership to develop a day-trip service from towns in the Calgary region to Canmore and Banff this summer.

The idea is On-It regional transit – launched last October as a two-year pilot project in Okotoks, Turner Valley, Black Diamond, High River and Calgary – would provide buses from Calgary to Canmore and Banff for about 10 to 12 weeks on weekends and holidays over the summer.

Danchuk said nothing has been finalized yet, but he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached to start such a service by the end of June after a few more meetings with the involved parties.

“We are still talking, and schedules and costs and fares and the number of runs from Calgary and those things aren’t ironed out yet,” he said, noting eight to 10 runs a day would be a great start.

The service from Calgary would give visitors an option to leave their vehicles behind, and avoid the hassle of getting caught in nightmare traffic and finding a parking spot in Banff.

“I think it’s sends a message to people who are aware of our current challenges that we are all working together to make positive changes, and I think it will be a great offer,” said Mayor Sorensen.

“In terms of changing behaviour of people, I guess that remains to be seen. Parks Canada, the Town and Bow Valley Regional Transit will all be watching and monitoring very closely to see what happens with ridership.”

Original article sourced here.

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