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Town of Banff exploring commuter pass, paid parking on Bow Ave

“I do think the commuter pass is an absolutely vital part of this. I just don’t know what that looks like.”
Banff's Bear Street parkade. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – The Town of Banff is exploring the introduction of paid parking on all levels of the Bear Street parkade and on Bow Avenue in conjunction with a discounted commuter pass for workers who live in neighbouring communities.

Administration will look at options for council’s consideration on how to tie a commuter pass into the paid parking system for workers from outside the Banff townsite and for residents who require more than the three hours of free downtown parking currently available.

Coun. Grant Canning said his motion, which considers paid parking on Bow Avenue and all levels of the Bear Street parkade, aims to close an existing parking loophole, which allows visitors who know how Banff’s parking system works to park in the upper two levels of the parkade for up to nine hours a day for free.

“This isn’t about the commuters per se; it’s about ensuring visitors who understand the system are not getting a free ride essentially,” he said during a governance and finance committee meeting on Monday (May 27).

On top of that, Canning said he empathizes with the situation commuters face and believes the idea of a commuter pass with proof out-of-towners are parking for work is “completely fair.”

“We do hear from the folks who work in town, who have to commute in, and they can’t use mass transit currently, so a commuter pass creates a system I think that’s actually better for them in the long run,” he said.

“I do think the commuter pass is an absolutely vital part of this. I just don’t know what that looks like.”

The Town of Banff introduced visitor pay parking in the downtown core in 2021. It costs $6 an hour in the peak tourist season from May 1-Oct. 31 and $5 per hour in winter.

Currently, there is free nine-hour parking available at the train station public parking lot, on Bow Avenue, and on the upper two levels of the multi-level Bear Street parkade.

Based on data from the use of cameras and vehicle licence plate recognition technology, more than 40 per cent of all vehicles entering the parkade in March and April 2024 were registered in Banff and nearby Bow Valley communities.

Administration estimates the number of regular commuters from outside Banff using the parkade is in the range of 50-60 vehicles per day.

Since May 1 when paid parking was introduced on the lower two levels of the parkade, administrators say they have noticed the free zone of the parkade is typically full by 10-10:30 a.m. each morning and Bow Avenue appears to be where most of the displaced vehicles have moved.

Stephen Allan, engineering coordinator for the Town of Banff, said any commuters arriving for work before 10:30 a.m. are still managing to get a free parking stall in the parkade and commuters who arrive after this time seem to be choosing to find free parking on Bow Avenue rather than paying for parking.

“Commuters who are arriving for afternoon and evening shifts are likely to have been the most impacted by the recent paid parking change,” he said.

Some variables to be considered by administration in exploring a commuter pass include cost of the permit, pass validity period, and eligibility requirements. In addition, administration will look at whether the commuter pass is based on a reservation system or parking remains first come, first serve.

Last year, Canmore implemented a non-resident monthly parking pass for commuting workers.

During off-peak season from Nov. 1 to April 30, non-residents working in Canmore can buy a monthly pass entitling them to park in any of the downtown pay zones for $96 per month. It is not available in the peak season. Uptake has been low with between three and seven passes sold per month since November. 

Canmore also sells monthly parking passes to residents who wish to purchase more parking than the three-hour per day free parking they are eligible for. Peak season rate is $83 per month and off-peak drops to $41.50 a month.

The resident discount pass was implemented at the end of October 2022 and to date Canmore has sold more than 350 passes.

“Administration we spoke with in Canmore have advised that in a typical month they sell 15-25 passes, with many of the passes sold to the same individuals each month,” said Allan.

“For both pass types, the price was determined to cover operational costs of parking, i.e. cost recovery model.”

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