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Home » Hot Topics » ‘Game-changing’ mass transit proposal for Banff

April 27, 2017 – Rocky Mountain Outlook. Story by Jordan Small.

An elated “woohoo” slipped from the mouth of Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen at an announcement Tuesday (April 25) that proposed up to 900 new parking spaces to be added inside the Banff townsite.

Liricon Capital Ltd. is proposing plans to regenerate Banff’s rail lands to become an arrival centre, mass transit hub and Banff heritage site at the mountain resort town – a project which is being called a “game-changer” by the mayor.

Banff residents Jan and Adam Waterous, owners of Liricon Capital Ltd., the leaseholder of the rail lands, announced they have begun the process to make an up to 900-vehicle parking lot a reality at the rail lands area near the west entrance of town.

“(Liricon Capital) entered into a multi-decade lease agreement with CP Rail to prepare the Banff station and the surrounding grounds for mass transit changes that we believe will be coming to our town,” said Jan Waterous, at the announcement at the train station.

“We are going to create a mass transit parking lot by relocating and expanding the existing parking lot – so the west parking lot is now going to be moved to the east side of the station.”

The revitalization would add “travel options” such as a lot for passengers to take shuttles to Lake Louise and, in anticipation of potential passenger rails coming from Calgary to Banff, a welcome hub for visitors.

The second piece of news announced is the intention to develop a heritage site on the east lot.

“We plan to create a historic rail district that will support the existing station … we envisione restoration of three heritage Banff buildings,” said Jan.

One of the buildings will include the “ice house,” while separate announcements will be made for two more Banff buildings in the coming months.

The primary entrance for the lands and parking lot would be at Mount Norquay Road and potential secondary entrances could be at Cougar or Moose streets.

Initially, the plan is to have a gravel lot and then potentially it could be paved at a later date.

Liricon Capital officials said they are able to go forward with this proposal because CP Rail has also agreed to a multi-decade lease for all lands around the station.

“CP has stepped up and shared our vision to create the mass transit lot,” said Jan. “For the first time since (1883), CP Rail has also agreed to a multi-decade lease for us to lease all the lands around the station.”

Liricon Capital added land would have minimum environmental impact due to it being used as a storage lot in the past, with roughly two-thirds of the area already cleared of trees.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), though, is currently being undertaken and the results will be given to Parks Canada for review. Jan said that they want to work closely with Parks and make sure it is up to standards.

The first step is the EIA, followed by public consultation, then Banff’s Municipal Planning Commission would have to approve the proposal before shovels can hit the dirt, and that process is expected to last through the summer months, said Darren Enns, Town of Banff manager of development services.

The proposal, if approved, would also allow an extension to the Legacy Trail, connecting the Canmore-Banff east portion to Vermilion Road through Cougar Street.

The announcement for mass transit parking is “game-changing” for the entire town, said Mayor Sorensen.

“Here’s the reality; we have always known we’d need a mass transit parking lot to really make a difference,” said Sorensen.

The parking lot is expected to add options for visitors whether it be “more pedestrian friendly” to take a five minute walk to downtown, or try public transit such as Roam.

“Over 50 per cent of the vehicles crossing the Bow River bridge last summer were day visitors in their personal cars,” said Sorensen. “We need new mobility options to travel to town or the park without a car.”

Sorensen added the east location of the lot is the most preferred area to have a parking lot in Banff, according to “all previous transportation surveys.”

A couple of “woohoos” later, Leslie Bruce, Banff and Lake Louise Tourism’s president and CEO was thrilled with the proposal.

“It’s not so much about bringing more tourists (to Banff), it’s about helping create the right visitor experience, helping create a more pedestrian friendly experience, reducing wait times, reducing congestion and allowing people to move through the park that’s more reflective of the national park,” said Bruce.

Liricon Capital hopes the community will see this as a win-win outcome.

“We originally took on the project because we thought we could be good partners; we never for a moment thought we had the answer to traffic congestion in Banff, but by partnering with the Town, and we hope with Parks and our community, we can begin the process of moving forward so we can tackle some of these issues together.”

Original article sourced here.

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