LAKE LOUISE – Parks Canada has made some changes to its transit system in Lake Louise in anticipation of a strong rebound in visitation to Banff National Park this summer.
New for 2022 is the relocation of the park-and-ride lot from the Trans-Canada Highway east of the hamlet to the Lake Louise ski hill, better integration of Parks Canada shuttles with Roam transit and an increase in the paid parking fee at Upper Lake Louise.
Jed Cochrane, a visitor experience manager with Parks Canada, said visitors are strongly encouraged to book their bus reservations in advance of their visit to iconic Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, adding this summer is expected to be busy with an expected rebound in international tourism.
“If people want to come and see Moraine Lake and Lake Louise they really should count on making a reservation, otherwise they’re risking not finding a parking spot,” said Cochrane.
“We know how difficult and basically impossible that is on a busy summer day and they’re risking finding that the seats on the shuttle will be sold out if they don’t reserve ahead.”
To better integrate Parks Canada shuttles with Roam transit, visitors who purchase a Roam Transit ‘superpass’ will be able to access Moraine Lake by taking the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle upon arrival at the Lake Louise lakeshore.
Cochrane said this gives visitors departing from Canmore or Banff, or from Calgary on On-It regional transit, the ability to see both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on one fare.
“Ultimately, our goal is to encourage people to leave their vehicles in Banff or in Canmore or in Calgary, so we’re offering through Roam the ability to purchase a ‘superpass’, which Roam had before, but this year it would include access to Moraine Lake as well,” he said.
“The best thing we can do is make it easy, convenient and as cheap as possible and that will encourage people to use transit. We’re really hoping they understand it’s the guaranteed way to see those two lakes rather than trying to find a parking spot on a busy day.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020, Banff National Park’s visitation was more than 4.1 million people per year. Only 7.2 per cent of those people arrived by mass transit such as private bus tours and the rest arrived in private vehicles.
Parking at Upper Lake Louise is limited to about 450 stalls, but the annual two-way traffic volume on Lake Louise Drive increased to 2.1 million vehicles in 2019 from 1.2 million vehicles in 2010 – a 75 per cent increase.
To help manage the limited parking available at the Lake Louise lakeshore, Parks Canada is continuing with a two-year paid parking pilot program for all public parking stalls from mid-May to mid-October. The flat rate is going from $11.70 to $12.25 per vehicle per day.
Cochrane said visitors should expect that parking lots will be full by sunrise and vehicles without reservations at a nearby hotel will be turned around when the parking lot is full.
“At the end of the year, we’ll have a hard look at how that parking is priced in order to ultimately incentive the use of transit,” he said.
The draft Banff National Park Management Plan recommended paid parking be trialed at Moraine Lake as well.
Cochrane said Parks is waiting to see what recommendations come out of a Parks Canada-struck expert panel tasked with advising on a long-term framework on how visitors will get around the park as well as demand management strategies such as reservation systems, access restrictions, quotas, or paid parking.
“In the fall, we’ll be ready to talk about what’s coming for 2023 in places like Moraine Lake,” Cochrane said.
In the meantime, shuttle reservations for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake will be available on the Parks Canada Reservation Service (PCRS) at reservation.pc.gc.ca beginning May 4. Additional available seats will be released starting 48 hours prior to departure.
Visitors can reserve a one-hour window, rather than an exact departure time. There will be no first-come first-served shuttle seats available. A single reservation provides service from the park-and-ride lot to both Lake Louise lakeshore and Moraine Lake.
Visitors will be issued a proof of purchase that allows them to access a Lake Connector shuttle between Lake Louise lakeshore and Moraine Lake. The Lake Connector runs every 15 minutes and boarding is on a first-come first-served basis.
Cochrane said 60 per cent of reservations were made the day of last year, but with visitation rebounding he believes seats will go faster this summer.
“We didn’t necessarily have the visitor pressure outside of a few short periods during last summer where seats were sold out in a given day, that didn’t happen every often last year,” he said.
“From what we’ve heard from some of partners at BLLT (Banff and Lake Louise Tourism) and some of the other big businesses in town, they’re seeing a really strong uptick in reservations heading into this summer.”
A shuttle ticket includes use of the Lake Connector and return trip from either lake to the park-and-ride. Adult (18-64) - $8; Senior (65+) - $4; Youth (6-17) – free; Child (under 6 years) – free.