Banff’s Transit Transition

For years, the only way to get around Canada’s vast Banff National Park was essentially by foot or by car. Today, the park is undergoing a public transit revolution – and it appears to be working.

As Canada’s oldest and most internationally renowned national park, Banff gets a lot of visitors. And as that number continues to grow, the main attractions, town centers and parking lots are experiencing increasing congestion. This leaves park planners with two choices – pave paradise and put up more parking lots or encourage public transit.

Fortunately, Parks Canada chose the latter and three years later the public transit initiative is making a serious dent, as Angela Anderson, Director, Communications for Bafff & Lake Louise Tourism, the destination marketing organization behind the initiative, explains:

“We began a communications partnership with the Town of Banff and Parks Canada, encouraging people to take transit and leave their single occupancy vehicles at home.”

Parallel to this information campaign, Parks Canada and the Town of Banff continued to expand the transit infrastructure in place, making it easier to take transit to the key parts of the park. The effects of this dual approach were quickly apparent, and people were eager to make use of these improved services.

“Behavior change is definitely a long game, but the early results we see of people’s willingness to take transit tells us we will continue supporting the increased use of transit in the future.”

An impact on “pinch points,” such as the downtown bridge in Banff and overcrowded parking lots by the main attractions, was especially felt. Year on year, a 7% increase in public transit use was accompanied by a -2% reduction of vehicles in the most congested areas.

“We believe being in Canada’s first national park is our greatest asset and our greatest responsibility to act accordingly,” reflects Angela, and continues:

“We need to ensure we are not only promoting the destination, but ensuring its protection and sustainability for now and for future generations.”

Jonathan Fraenkel-Eidse