Roam receives $4.2M in provincial grants
Thursday, Jan 05, 2017 06:00 am
Long-awaited regional transit from Banff to Lake Louise, plus bus service from the village to Upper Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, seems one step closer to reality thanks to $4.2 million in provincial grants.
GreenTRIP funding, which provides two-thirds of a $6.3 million overall price tag, includes $1.22 million for a bus fleet for local transit in Lake Louise, $1.62 million for buses for the regional service, $1.16 million for development of a park-and-ride lot and $200,000 for bus stops.
Officials with Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission say Dillon Consulting is working on a design plan for how the regional Roam service between Banff and Lake Louise would operate, noting the consultant’s report will be presented at the commission’s February meeting.
Martin Bean, BVRTSC’s chief administrative officer, said the ID9-funded study is looking at what the service would entail, such as schedules, and noted options for both the Trans-Canada Highway and Bow Valley Parkway are being considered.
“We’d like to look to 2018 for services on the options for Banff to Lake Louise and potentially up to Upper Lake Louise,” said Bean. “We’re discussing with both Parks Canada and ID9 what the next steps would be.”
With visitation to Banff National Park continuing to grow every year to about four million in 2016, summer traffic within Lake Louise and to Upper Lake Louise and Moraine Lake can be problematic, leaving many visitors and residents with a poor national park experience.
Last summer, traffic became so backed up that RCMP were forced to close the east and west ramps on the Trans-Canada Highway to stop more people entering Lake Louise, asking visitors to instead head to other locations such as the Icefields Parkway.
There were reports of people with reservations stuck in traffic delays and not able to make it to their hotels, as well as visitors in lengthy lineups while waiting to get on the free shuttle service from a parking lot east of the village.
Bean had no information on where Parks Canada would permit development of a park-and-ride lot.
“We don’t have any information about where it would be,” he said. “We applied for funding for the lot because we know it’s needed.”
BVRTSC’s 2017-20 strategic and business plan sets out several goals for Roam transit, including connecting popular Bow Valley destinations on a year-round basis by public transit by 2020.
On top of the existing local Banff service, local Canmore service and regional Canmore-Banff service, the goal by 2020 is to have a local service in Lake Louise, a regional Banff-Lake Louise route as well as service to Lake Minnewanka Loop and Bow Valley Parkway.
The business plan also calls for a feasibility study for summer-winter service to campgrounds and trailheads, as well as another study for public bus service from the Bow Valley to Calgary Transit.
“Our goal is to connect all aspects of the Bow Valley. So far, we’ve connected Canmore and Banff and now we’re looking further,” Bean said.
“It’s exciting to be able to look at transit in the Bow Valley as a whole and see potential for movement from Canmore all the way to Lake Louise for both visitors and residents.”
Parks Canada declined an interview request on the issue of transit, including the recent $4.2 million provincial funding announcement.
The Banff National Park Management Plan, however, speaks to transit.
The plan states the agency will consider a variety of transportation options for the Lake Louise area, including parking lot management, alternative parking for oversize visitors, intercept parking and an aerial or ground access system for most day users.
The plan also indicates Parks will support, to the greatest extent possible, the work of municipal and regional partners as they develop transit systems for the Bow Valley. Priority for Parks is to reduce traffic congestion and parking requirements outside park communities and to enhance access to trailheads, campgrounds, parkways and day-use areas.
“Parks Canada supports the development of regional transit and is working with all stakeholders to improve visitor experience and address parking and congestion issues in Banff National Park,” according to an email statement from Parks Canada.
“We are currently working with the transit commission on additional service for 2017. We look forward to sharing more about these initiatives once they are finalized.”