Skip to content

Canmore public transit review outlines potential needs for Roam

“When made safe, convenient, comfortable, and direct, people will elect to take a larger proportion of their trips by foot, bicycle, and transit,”

CANMORE – A review of Canmore’s public transit needs recommends increased frequency on local and regional routes, improved route efficiency as the town grows and initial work to start designing a storage and maintenance facility to hold 20-22 buses by 2030.

The review, completed by Dillon Consulting, and presented to council at its April 16 committee of the whole meeting, will be used by the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission for its upcoming strategic planning to look at future needs of bus transit in the region.

The 68-page review gives information for the short-term of two to three years, mid-term through 2030 and long-term of full community build-out.

“The main goal of this report was to help illustrate how a transit service could be implemented,” said the Town of Canmore’s manager of engineering Andy Esarte. “The recommendations in the report certainly are not direction to act on those recommendations or any suggestion this is the plan administration would bring forward to council for approval; it’s really to inform those strategic activities of the commission and to provide more information.

“Right now, we’re operating a bit in the dark for what those next steps are. ... It comes with a large caveat in the report there are significant financial pressures for service across the organization and other important capital needs, so the ability to implement would have to be reviewed at budget time each year, each cycle.”

Other highlights in the review are a possible new Route 13 to Three Sisters area via the Trans-Canada Highway and Bow Valley Trail, which could extend to Dead Man’s Flats; an on-demand service; an expansion of the downtown terminal to have a minimum six bus bays and a second terminal in the Three Sisters area.

The review also outlines strategies such as working with On-It to add possible stops in Canmore; including bike racks at bus shelter locations; introducing paid parking in new areas to help cover public transit costs; looking at potential tax subsidies and fare partnerships with private sector; and expansion of bus shelters.

“The Canmore Integrated Transportation Plan identifies an ambitious and important goal to reduce single occupant vehicle travel and increase the share of trips made by active transportation and transit. … This will only occur with a strategic investment in service levels and the implementation of other complementary strategies required to achieve this shift in travel behaviour,” states Dillon’s review.

The transit commission increased the one-way fare from $10 to $12.50 this year and will also have On-It go from Calgary directly to Lake Louise starting June 14. A Calgary to Moraine Lake bus will launch Sept. 6.

Coun. Wade Graham noted several businesses are bringing workers in from outside the valley to fill employee gaps, with increased On-It service potentially aiding.

“Within the dollars that have been allocated, the provider Southland and the commission have done a really great job of stretching dollars,” Esarte said. “Each year we see an increase in service and it’s added Fridays, extended hours, added more buses, so administratively there’s been a lot of talk and potential and benefit that could see. … I think right now it’s just a question of costs and how best to move forward with kind of expansion of that.”

The review doesn’t necessarily mean any of the recommendations may be implemented, but it outlines a study of Canmore transit now and into the coming years. It can, however, be used as a high level document for potential future budget and service level decisions.

Esarte said the report can also be used for future Town policy such as a potential update for the Integrated Transportation Plan that’s planned for consideration in the 2025 budget.

He noted, in response to a question by Coun. Jeff Mah if transit can be charged to developers through off-site levies, the Municipal Government Act is specific on what can and can’t be included in an off-site levy.

“It’s a stretch to include transit,” Esarte said, adding the transit commission has been successful in receiving grants.

The anticipated cost would see $1.81 million in operating costs and $7.16 in capital costs to achieve five per cent of trips done via public transit by 2030. For full community build-out, there’s an additional $3.04 million in operating costs and extra $7.23 million in capital costs.

The staff report emphasizes the costs are “not necessarily reflective of actual costs” and a detailed cost analysis would need to be undertaken.

The new Grassi Lakes seasonal route will begin this year – potentially starting the May long weekend – to open public transit to Grassi Lakes, Canmore Nordic Centre and Quarry Lake, but also Bow Valley Trail, Spring Creek Mountain Village and the Town Centre.

Route 12 is a three-year pilot program in partnership with the province.

“This route is quite ambitious. It covers a lot of ground, so the frequency is approximately 80 minutes for that plan,” said Esarte. “The winter version of this route sees the Grassi Lakes terminus move to the Nordic Centre and through that, you can increase the frequency.”

The Town’s 2018 Integrated Transportation Plan promotes more trips by active modes such as walking, cycling and public transit. By 2030, the aim is to have 40 per cent of trips by non-personal vehicles, including five per cent by transit.

“When made safe, convenient, comfortable, and direct, people will elect to take a larger proportion of their trips by foot, bicycle, and transit,” states the staff report.

“Mode-shift is imperative in Canmore because of the acute pressures that we face. We have extreme constraints on space for roads and parking due to our natural environment and the prohibitive cost of land. Increasing density can reduce unit costs and provide more affordable housing but can only be achieved if transportation impacts are offset by decreasing the share of car trips generated below our current targets.”

The staff report highlighted a traffic monitoring report last September showed in peak season 2023, 68 per cent of trips were done by personal vehicles and 32 per cent by active modes. In 2013, 94 per cent of trips were personal vehicles and six per cent were active modes.

“Transit’s role is an outsized role for mode shift in that it enables fundamental differences in the way people travel in our community,” Esarte said. “It serves as an intermediate step between walking and cycling trips and can replace walk and cycle trips in inclement weather.”

The neighbouring municipalities of MD of Bighorn and Kananaskis Improvement District are partnering for initial steps for a transit feasibility study. Public engagement is continuing until July and a final report is expected this fall.

The report added with more growth anticipated in coming years in Three Sisters Mountain Village and Palliser areas, transit will have to continue to grow to meet needs and avoid people relying solely on personal vehicles.

“There is lots of potential in Three Sisters,” Esarte said of having people use public transit in the future development.

“If concept planning for the Palliser area is done in a way that’s transit-oriented, that too could be a high ridership potential area.”



  • New seasonal Grassi Lakes route
    • $605,000 to operate year-round
  • Town Centre bus terminal concept design and develop concept for Three Sisters bus terminal
    • $200,000 for design studies
    • MID-TERM

  • Add second bus to Cougar Creek Route 5c for 30-minute frequency
    • $605,000 operating and $1.38 million capital costs
  • Increase frequency of Banff to Canmore Route 3 to 15-minute headways
    • $605,000 operating and $1.38 million capital costs
  • Review on-demand transit options
    • $40,000 capital cost
  • Add an additional spare bus
    • $1.38 million capital cost
  • Storage and maintenance facility
    • $10-12 million in capital costs, but study for needs is $150,000 in capital costs

  • More service hours for Banff to Canmore Route 3
    • $605,000 operating and $1.38 million capital costs
  • New Smith Creek/Stewart Creek Route 13
    • $1.21 operating and $2.76 million in capital costs for two buses
  • Modify Three Sisters Route 5t to improve service to Three Sisters Village area
    • $605,000 operating and $1.38 million capital costs
  • Add an extra bus
    • $1.38 million capital cost
  • Introduce on-demand service
    • $330,000 for capital and $605,000 in operating costs for two buses
push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks