When you think of the future of Banff, what do you see? Imagine our community in 2025 or 2040. Is it the same Banff as today? Or have we made changes for the better to improve our quality of life? Hopefully, your vision doesn’t include bumper-to-bumper cars on Banff’s streets, causing major gridlock and traffic backups. The future holds better options for transportation in our community: easy, convenient ways for residents and visitors to get around, while not negatively impacting the environment. If we want these options for the future, we need to start working on them now. The Long-Term Transportation Study looks at four concepts, three of which are recommended for further study. Read them over, and then let us know what you think about the future of transportation in Banff.
Of the 3.8 million visitors to Banff each year, 93% of them arrive in a personal vehicle. They want to explore the town, visit attractions, and experience the national park environment, including clean air. They don’t want to be stuck in a traffic jam.
Residents’ transportation needs are different. They want to get to their workplace in a timely manner, complete necessary errands, and ensure their family is transported to school, daycare or appointments safely and efficiently. They don’t want to be stuck in a traffic jam.
Banff’s road system is at capacity when the daily vehicle count exceeds 24,000 (entering and exiting). This has occurred 48 of 52 days since June 29 in 2016. Vehicle volume increased 9% in 2015 over 2014, and has increased 8% so far in 2016 over 2015.
Assuming an average annual vehicle volume increase of 1.8% (consistent with the average growth since 2008) then – with no action taken – nine months of congestion are predicted by the year 2045 with the congestion threshold being exceeded by 16,000 vehicles (90%) at peak.
Banff Community Plan Guidance
A limited land base and Banff’s commitment to being an environmental role model means we cannot build our way out of traffic congestion and lack of parking. The community must embrace creative solutions to reducing vehicle volumes, particularly at peak travel times.
What the Community Plan Says
As a national park community, Banff has an obligation to be a model in environmental management, sustainable development and tourism.
Our Community Plan Goals:
- Reduce and manage traffic volume and parking needs downtown
- Provide a transportation system that is economically and environmentally sustainable
- Provide a transportation system that enhances the resident and visitor experience
Without new interventions, congestion delays are expected to increase in both severity and frequency. The following are concepts in the study that have been identified as potential solutions. Read more about each concept below and if you'd like more detailed analysis, download the full study.
In all solutions, intercept parking is required to ensure the success of each option.
- Banff’s road system was never designed for the volumes of vehicles coming into town during busy periods, and roads are full for the entire summer
- The problem is expected to get worse – in both severity and frequency – as visitor volume increases
- Intercept parking is required until our visitors start arriving from Calgary in something other than a private vehicle
- Although the road system is full, attractions and businesses have capacity and action should be taken to:
- Enable visitation and economic growth
- Allow residents and visitors to move more freely around the town
- The road system is full, so a vehicle solution is building a road bypass, however, it has a significant environmental impact, is inconsistent with the Banff Community Plan goals, and will require tax subsidy
- Mass transit has low environmental impacts and can move greater numbers of people
- Conventional transit has no visual impact and is scalable and flexible, but requires an operating subsidy. Marketing, and possibly incentives/disincentives, required to encourage visitors to use conventional transit
- Aerial transit does not require tax subsidy, is an attraction in itself, and is a mode of transportation consistent with the way that people prefer to travel. However, it does has a visual impact and is a bold approach
- Consideration was given to CO2 emissions when looking at each concept
- With all solutions, the goal is to cater to the majority of travellers, freeing up existing road space for residents
The study recommends:
- The Town work with Canadian Pacific and Parks Canada on the concept of expanding The Fenlands lot and work with Parks Canada on the concept of a new intercept lot on Banff Avenue.
- The Town undertake preliminary design work on conventional (bus) mass transit and aerial mass transit.