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Moraine Lake mandatory shuttle access starts up

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It's the start of a new season at Moraine Lake and for the first time, you will have to take a shuttle bus to access the famous landmark -- no matter how early you're willing to show up.

This will be the first weekend of mandatory shuttle access and while it's going smoothly so far, organizers admit the system hasn't been tested yet.

"Moraine Lake was sold out for the bulk of the day," said Colin Debaie with Parks Canada.

"We felt it was a really good test of the capacity of the system."

The announcement may have been sudden but the problem has been building for years.

The village now has not one but two traffic lights and for years, Parks Canada staff were turning away vehicles, telling them to try again later.

That had some circling back half a dozen times, further aggravating the traffic situation.

There may be adjustments in the future - but the shuttles are here to stay.

The real summer rush is still a month away but already, the parking lots are starting to fill as tourists arrive.

The road to Moraine Lake has been controlled for years, often closed once the tiny parking lot at the far end filled up -- something it seems out-of-province visitors were already aware of.

"I noticed that parking would be very difficult down in Lake Louise, so I decided that probably taking the shuttle would be the easiest," one person said.

It's also the only way in unless you're ready to bike or walk the 30-kilometre round trip.

It's only the early days of the mandatory shuttle but so far, the concerns are minor.

"You need to log in and then come back and it's a little bit confusing and it takes a little bit longer," another person said.

The shuttles board at the Lake Louise ski area parking lot and you can book 48 hours in advance.

Walk-ons are very limited but visitors say it quickly gets easier.

"Once you purchase and come here, it's really easy to park and the shuttles come quite often," said one person.

Not everyone knows what to do -- some people were in line without a reservation.

Today, they'll get on but by August, there's bound to be some disappointment.

"We arrived in the area and then they said that we have to take the bus, so more directions would be helpful," said another person.

Parks Canada says some disappointment is inevitable given the massive crowds trying to reach a small place but overall, it's hoped the system will be an improvement.

The best advice: book ahead, be flexible in your dates and have a backup plan.

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