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Home » Hot Topics » Details on Calgary-Banff bus service rolling out

April 27, 2017 – Rocky Mountain Outlook. Story by Cathy Ellis. 

A weekend trial transit service between Calgary and Banff to help alleviate traffic congestion nightmares in Banff National Park this summer is rolling out.

A draft plan for the service, presented to Banff council on Monday (April 24), indicates 55-seat coaches would run between June 15 and Sept. 4 on weekends and statutory holidays at a cost of $10 each way per person.

Mayor Karen Sorensen said the Calgary-Banff service would link with other services, such as Roam’s local routes and the Lake Minnewanka loop, as well as Parks Canada’s proposed service between Banff and Lake Louise.

“This is excellent news. It’s a huge step forward in terms of mass transit and moving people out of their vehicles and into mass transit. When you put it all together, there’s some significant solutions here,” she said.

“2017 will be a bit of a year of trial with all the bits and pieces – with Minnewanka Banff-Lake Louise and Banff-Calgary – but when we see it all as one system, it’s going to be tremendous.”

Increasing visitation to Banff National Park in the past few years, to about four million last year, has lead to traffic congestion, parking problems and overcrowding in Banff and Lake Louise, deteriorating experiences for both visitors and residents.

With free entry to all of Canada’s national parks this year to celebrate Canada’s 150th, the tourist towns are expected to be even busier. Last year, visitors to Lake Louise were at times turned away at the Trans-Canada Highway because traffic was so bad.

Calgary Regional Partnership is currently running a weekday regional transit pilot in the southern Calgary region called On-It, but the coaches are not used on weekends or on statutory holidays so are available for the new Banff-Calgary service.

Under the draft plan, the bus service would see three coaches making approximately 13 round trips per day, with the first bus arriving in Banff at about 8:30 a.m. and the last one leaving Banff about 10:30 p.m. It would be roughly a 70-minite service.

Buses would run directly between Crowfoot LRT in Calgary to Banff for most of the trips; however, about two trips in the morning and three in the evening would also stop in Okotoks, Somerset-Bridlewood in South Calgary, Canmore and Cochrane.

Adrian Field, the Town of Banff’s engineering manager, said the $10 fare is aimed to encourage people to take the bus.

“We want to make this a viable alternative. In fact, we’d like to make it preferable to driving your car out to Banff,” he said.

“Any time we can prevent a car from driving on the streets of Banff is a very good thing, and if we can intercept those vehicles in Calgary, that’s even better for us.”

Councillor Chip Olver said the various transit options open up many possibilities for tourists.

“Someone could come from Calgary and spend the day in Banff, or they could go to Lake Louise for part of the day on the shuttle that Parks Canada is looking at running,” she said.

“They could have dinner in town if they wanted, have a couple of drinks because they don’t have to drive their car home, take the bus to go to the LRT and then take that home.”

Residents could also take advantage of the bus to go to Calgary, said Olver.

“A lot of the focus is to bring people into Banff on a bus instead of their own private vehicles, which will take some of the demand off what we’ve all seen on Banff’s streets in the summertime. We all know how busy and congested they can get,” she said.

“One of the things that is fabulous about it, too, is that people who live in Banff, for $10, could take a bus into Calgary and get off at the LRT station and then have the whole city for things that they would like to do for the day.”

Councillor Stavros Karlos, who earlier lambasted Parks Canada over its lack of action on transit in the national park, especially heading into 2017, extended his thanks to the federal agency for jumping on board.

Local Banff Roam service and the regional Banff-Canmore route run by Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission have proven how successful transit can be here, he said.

“Our numbers on every service we’ve added since the inception of this commission continue to grow beyond my expectations. I never expected the Banff-Canmore regional service to be hitting 10,000 riders a month,” said Karlos.

“The desire in the Bow Valley to get on these types of services, I think, will be a testament for success for future services, because if you have locals and residents who are buying into it, they will share the experiences with visitors.”

The Town of Banff is contributing 50 per cent of the net costs of the service, with Parks Canada asked to do the same. Calgary Regional Partnership is providing $67,000 of indirect costs.

Parks Canada officials say they are still in negotiations so the confirmation of contributions is still to be determined. Field, meanwhile, said Banff’s maximum contribution would be $89,000.

“Fare revenue is expected to cover a portion of the gross costs, so the actual subsidy required will be less than $89,000,” he said.

“If the buses average 15 riders per trip, the costs to Banff would drop to $40,000. At 30 riders per trip, Banff’s costs would drop to zero.”

Councillor Ted Christensen supports the service, but said he’d like to see the Town of Canmore kick in some funds, too.

“I want to bring to light there is potential Canmore could contribute because there is potential for them to gain from this as well,” he said.

Original article sourced here.

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