Would the return of rail service reduce traffic snarls in Banff?
CTV Calgary Staff
Published Wednesday, May 13, 2015 4:54PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 13, 2015 6:39PM MDT
As retailers, hotel owners and restaurateurs prepare to benefit from Banff’s lucrative summer season, many residents prepare to face an onslaught of visitor vehicles.
The May long weekend, the unofficial start of summer tourism in Banff, brings traffic congestion to the quiet townsite.
From 2013 to 2014, guest visits to Banff increased by nine per cent, a trend which is expected to continue.
In an attempt to alleviate the traffic tie-ups on Banff Avenue and throughout the town, town officials are considering resurrecting tourist train service connecting Banff with Calgary but several questions remain unanswered.
“Is there capacity on the existing track? What could that look like?,” says Robert Earl, town manager of Banff. “We're looking at other examples from across North America in communities that have used this type of system on heavy rail.”
Preliminary discussions are underway between the Calgary Regional Partnership and the town of Banff entertaining the feasibility of train travel.
“Long term, the more we can move people to come into our community collectively, the better,” said Earl. “Whether that's on a bus, coming in groups, or potentially on a train. A long time ago, people used to come here by rail, there is a rail coming right through our community.”
“We'd love to see it used again for passenger rail service and so we're beginning to have conversations with those in that industry about the potential of that in the future.”
If tourist service resumes, train stops could include Calgary, Cochrane, Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise.
In the meantime, to improve traffic on Banff’s roads in the summer of 2015, officials:
- Doubled the frequency of the bus service to the Banff Gondola
- Installed traffic cameras which visitors can monitor online
- Encourage visitors to walk or cycle in town after securing a parking spot
An estimated cost of a tourist train has not been released and a summer trial of the service is at least three years away.
With files from CTV's Shaun Frenette