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EDITORIAL: Transit mode shift likely to be painful, but necessary

As Bow Valley communities continue pushing forward in promoting public transit and active modes of transit rather than travelling entirely by personal vehicles, there are bound to be growing pains.
April 28, 2022
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/

As Bow Valley communities continue pushing forward in promoting public transit and active modes of transit rather than travelling entirely by personal vehicles, there are bound to be growing pains.

As paid parking is about to begin in downtown Canmore, the case expressed by Municipal District of Bighorn residents is the latest difficulty in the transition.

With both Canmore and Bighorn close geographically and the two communities intertwined through recreation, education, businesses and infrastructure servicing, the price to pay to park downtown or at Quarry Lake can be seen as restricting.

While there are hundreds of parking spots within a short walking distance, anyone used to the busy tourism seasons knows how finding one can quickly come at a premium.

It’s easy to be sympathetic to Bighorn residents, especially when a vehicle is needed to make most trips into Canmore or elsewhere.

However, one part of the discussion absent is Bighorn’s omission from Roam transit.

With Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore all part of the regional transit system, it’s worth the MD exploring the potential of bringing transit service to its residents.

It doesn’t necessarily mean a bus will reach every corner of the geographically large municipality, but it’s worth examining the feasibility of having some method of public transit from larger locations such as Dead Man’s Flats and Exshaw. Harvie Heights, located in between Canmore and the east gates of Banff National Park, already has the regional bus pass it several times a day.

Any feasibility study may come back and show it’s not worth the price or it could show a plethora of options in bringing a form of public transit, whether it be certain days and times when demand may be highest.

A Bighorn staff report last June all but nixed the idea of the municipality joining Roam due to what was found to be too high of a per capita cost. A new council could open the door again to explore the option as many residents would welcome the potential addition of a form of public transit.

Canmore has clearly outlined its goal to have 40 per cent of traffic be non-vehicle by 2030 as they push to reduce traffic and help with environmental goals in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Once visitor paid parking begins – as it has in the Town of Banff – it’s unlikely to see it removed or significantly altered with its intent to help ease traffic congestion and the bonus being the revenue brought into municipal coffers.

In another move to promote transit mode shift, Banff council voted to spend an extra $40,000 on its e-bike rebate program. Originally approved at $42,000 at service review, the highly popular program led to Town staff coming back to council for more money to keep the momentum going.

In only two weeks, 60 people filled up the rebate program and the extra cash flow will likely see up to another 60 do the same.

Early feedback suggests some people who took part in the rebate are turning to e-bikes and ditching personal vehicles.

In May, Banff will also introduce free public transit on Roam for town residents and Canmore has already expanded its service to provide greater options in addition to its free public transit. Infrastructure projects such as St.-Julien Road in Banff and the West Bow River Pathway in Canmore are aiming to improve active modes of transit by having more accessibility and safety options to bike and walk.

Many Canadian communities have near limitless room to grow in almost every direction.

For the mountain towns of the Bow Valley, the room to grow is fast declining and what space is left is better used for housing instead of asphalt for roads and parking spots.

Embracing active transit modes and public transit is one piece of the puzzle to accomplish that.