Banff approves push for transit

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Banff town council has approved $53,333 to continue a marketing campaign next year to get visitors out of their cars and onto public transit.

At a meeting on Nov. 29, council voted 5-2 to fund the municipality’s portion of a $160,000 updated visitor experience marketing campaign, advising visitors to plan ahead, park, use public transit and explore the park differently.

Most councillors supported the spending, noting visitation continues to soar and marketing campaigns can take several years to change behaviour. Councillors Peter Poole and Ted Christensen, though, had concerns about spending taxpayer dollars on it.

Poole believes Parks Canada and Banff Lake Louise Tourism should pick up the full tab, noting he’s not convinced it’s the Town of Banff’s responsibility to fund a marketing campaign.

“We’ve created a structure of delegating our marketing to the tourism bureau,” said Poole, referring to how most of Banff’s collected business licence fees are funnelled to Banff Lake Louise Tourism.

“I’m of the mind that the tourism bureau ought to handle that, together with Parks Canada, with a little bit of advice from us because we fundamentally steer the funds to the tourism bureau.”

The updated strategy, to run from May to September 2018, will build on one created for 2017 in anticipation of increased visitation with free entry to the park for Canada 150 celebrations.

It will cost $160,000, split equally between the Town, Parks Canada and Banff Lake Louise Tourism. It will target Calgary residents – both day and multi-night visitors – longer haul RV travellers as well as locals.

While Banff continues to be crowded and traffic snarls and parking problems make it unpleasant for residents and tourists alike, about one million rode public transit this year on the many services offered in town, throughout the park and from Calgary.

That said, the daily vehicle count in the Banff townsite continues to grow, with July and August recording a staggering 1.7 million vehicles, a seven per cent increase over the same period last year.

One of the problem areas for congestion and backups is the Bow River Bridge as visitors head to and from various tourism hotspots on the south side of town, such as the Banff Springs Hotel, the gondola and hot springs on Sulphur Mountain and Cave and Basin.

This year saw about a 20 per cent increase in the number of people catching transit over the bridge, but that number is still very small when compared to private vehicles.

Coun. Chip Olver said she believes the bridge and road system will eventually fail unless there is a substantive change in travel behaviour, including by residents.

“Those successes will not continue as visitation numbers continue to increase unless we have a substantial shift in how people move around our community,” said Olver.

“One of the challenges is to increase resident knowledge of the critical need to shift travel behaviour in order for our bridge to continue to function. Residents need to know this isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s critical. We’re on the precipice.”

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Rocky Mountain Outlook