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Increasing Lake Louise parking fees to discourage driving, help offset $4.5 million traffic management deficit

“We need to get the level of congestion down and we’re hoping that by providing an economic incentive to take the shuttle, fewer people will choose to drive.”
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Lake Louise. RMO FILE PHOTO⁠

LAKE LOUISE – Paid parking fees at iconic Lake Louise are jumping to $36.75 this year in a bid to get more people taking transit and to recover Parks Canada’s escalating costs of managing congestion and overcrowding.

The new rate, which will be $36.75 per vehicle per day, up from $21 last year and $12 the year before, is in effect from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. from May 17-Oct. 14.

Parks Canada officials say the cost of last year’s traffic management plan for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which includes traffic flaggers, a shuttle contract and staff working on traffic management, was $9.71 million, which was up $4.2 million from the year before.

James Eastham, a spokesperson for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit, said revenues from shuttle fares were $2.18 million and $3.04 million from paid parking, leaving $4.5 million for Park Canada to cover from its general operating budget.

“The reason we’re increasing the cost (of parking) is to keep the shuttle program sustainable,” he said during a virtual press conference Tuesday (March 26).

“We need to get the level of congestion down and we’re hoping that by providing an economic incentive to take the shuttle, fewer people will choose to drive.”

This summer, Parks Canada will continue to offer a frequent shuttle service from the park-and-ride lot at the Lake Louise ski hill to the Lake Louise lakeshore, Moraine Lake, and between the two iconic lakes. Youth under 18 ride for free, seniors’ fares are half price at $4, and fares for adults are $8.

Parking at the Lake Louise lakeshore is extremely limited, and during the summer months, the lot fills up before sunrise and remains full throughout the day.

Officials say an average of 1,200 vehicles per day parked at the lakeshore in 2023, adding between 2,000 and 3,000 vehicles per day were turned away because the parking lot was at capacity.

Lindsay McPherson, a spokesperson for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit, said a few years ago, the agency was turning away about 5,000 vehicles a day on Moraine Lake Road – before it was closed to personal vehicle traffic year-round in 2023.

She said Parks had to temporarily block access to the area two times last summer over concern congestion could hinder emergency vehicles accessing Upper Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

“At that point, there’s so much congestion within the village and people trying to access Lake Louise,” she said.

“We have to shut down access at the Trans-Canada Highway for anyone trying to enter the village until the traffic flow has flushed enough so traffic can flow safely again.”

Given more than four million tourists visit Banff National Park every year, Eastham said visitors need to plan ahead and know the way in which they can visit Lake Louise is changing.

“We’re terribly keen to have people come and visit Lake Louise … but being able to hop in your car and get a parking spot is just not something that’s really possible these days anymore,” he said.

“We are really pushing people to use the transit service.”

Parks Canada is also offering an additional shuttle service this year, to be known as the Alpine Start shuttle, which will run to Moraine Lake.

The two daily departures – one at 4 a.m. and one at 5 a.m. – are set up with climbers, scramblers and hikers in mind, who need earlier start times to safely complete their planned trips.

This early morning sunrise shuttle will depart from the Lake Louise lakeshore and reservations must be made by 5 p.m. the day prior to departure.

In addition, Lake Louise Drive is under construction this summer to upgrade infrastructure for transit, vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians on the road that now sees more than one million vehicles each year.

Reservations are required to use the shuttle service for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake and can be made on the Parks Canada reservation system, starting April 18.
Parks says reservations fill up quickly due to increased demand.

“Reservations are selling out quite quickly for the Parks Canada shuttles” said Eastham. “Within about 45 minutes of them being available in the two-day rolling window they are released, they are sold out.”

Parks Canada is also working on a human-use management plan for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, but it is still in the preliminary stages.

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