Banff Eco-Transit Centre
Frequently Asked Questions
We are working hard to address all questions and concerns regarding this project. If your question is not answered below, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Yes, if nothing is done to alleviate congestion. Banff’s townsite road system is currently beyond capacity during peak periods. According to the Town of Banff’s most recent transportation study, Stantec (2016), vehicles crossing the Bow Bridge roughly match total visitation (4.2 million/year) and visitation is expected to grow to 5.3 million/year by 2035. Vehicles crossing the Bow Bridge create a “choke point” and back up vehicles on Banff Avenue, Buffalo Street, Mountain Avenue and Spray Avenue, leading to inconvenience and frustration for visitors and residents alike. By 2020, the increase in visitation is expected to lead to four months/year of extreme congestion and five months/year of extreme congestion by 2025.
The Town of Banff has conducted several transportation studies that have recommended the construction of intercept parking. In fact, intercept parking has been official Town transportation policy since 1979. During that time zero stalls have been built. The Town of Banff’s Stantec (2016) study recommends building 1,000 stalls immediately and at minimum 2,000 stalls within 20 years.
Vehicle congestion at points of interest (PIP) across the park (Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka) has become progressively worse in recent years. The best way to reduce traffic congestion at points of interest is to encourage that all visitors leave their cars at a central point and instead take buses and shuttles – hence the need for intercept parking.
The first intercept parking lot for approximately 500 vehicles is under construction now and expected to open July 1, 2019.
It would work in three ways: one, all day-visitors would park in one of two intercept lots at the Eco- Transit Centre at the Banff Train Station. Two, hotel visitors would park at their respective hotels. Three, visitors would walk/bus or shuttle to points of interest in the Town of Banff and Banff National
Park, allowing Parks Canada to actively manage the number of people visiting a destination on any particular day or time. In addition to dramatically improving the ability of Banff residents to navigate their way through their own community, a resident-only vehicle pass would help to protect the ecological integrity of Banff National Park by reducing pollution from traffic and the risk of wildlife mortality on roads.
According to the Town of Banff’s Transportation Master Plan (Bunt & Associates 2012), visitors account for almost 90 per cent of the parking demand in downtown Banff, equal to an estimated 1400 stalls. Residents require less than 200 stalls. for a combined total of 1600 stalls. Based on the Town of Banff’s most recent parking study by Indigo (2016), there are currently 1220 stalls (593 off street stalls, 627 on street stalls) in downtown Banff, resulting in a current parking stall capacity deficit of close to 400 stalls, but an estimated surplus of parking capacity of 900 stalls following completion of the intercept lots. The combination of intercept parking and aerial transit along with shuttles and other mass transit options will dramatically reduce traffic congestion, including traffic over the Banff Avenue bridge, Banff’s primary choke point.
Both the Banff Management Plan (2010) and Norquay Site Guidelines (2013) make reference to aerial transit as a creative solution to aiding the restoration of the Cascade Wildlife Corridor. The Cascade Wildlife Corridor is a major east-west wildlife corridor in Banff National Park. To reduce habitat fragmentation in the Cascade Corridor and restore montane habitat, in the 1990s Parks removed several human structures including the bison paddock, the horse stables and the cadet camp. In addition, use of the airstrip is now limited. As part of Liricon’s analysis on the impact of aerial transit to Norquay, the Miistakis Institute, a non-profit environmental research organization based at Mount Royal University, conducted a study on the potential impact on wildlife of a gondola to Norquay. Miistakis concluded that the gondola has the potential to be an environmental gain for wildlife, particularly large carnivores (grizzly bears, cougars and wolves) provided that there are certain mitigations put in place including traffic reduction on the access road, restricting summer use on Norquay’s lower ski slopes and restricting visitors at Norquay’s summit to a fenced boardwalk.
All visitors to Norquay would take the gondola instead of driving up the Norquay access road, while Norquay’s existing parking would be moved from the alpine down to the Eco-Transit Centre at the train station. This would eliminate Norquay visitor vehicle traffic on the road, and provide Parks Canada with the opportunity to take further steps to reduce traffic on the road, for example temporal closures or completely decommissioning of the road to all traffic.
The gondola serves two purposes: the primary benefit is to improve the ecological integrity of the Cascade Wildlife Corridor. The secondary benefit is to provide a necessary revenue stream to allow Liricon to provide free intercept parking to Banff for 30 years, build a bus/shuttle depot on the north
side of the tracks for Parks Canada and Town of Banff shuttles/buses, and also build a pedestrian bridge over the rail tracks to ensure safe passage from one side to the other.
Liricon has been working with Dr. Joe Pavelka, Professor of Ecotourism at Mount Royal University to study this exact question. His findings show that Banff National Park’s primary attraction – that which drives visitation – is the Park itself and all of its extraordinary beauty. Once visitors arrive in the Park, they then decide what secondary attractions they are going to enjoy. Dr. Pavelka’s research suggests that 85% of visitors make their decision as to what to do in the Park after their arrival, and concludes that a gondola is not enough of an attraction to drive unique visitation to Banff. Furthermore, his research indicates that very few visitors would take two neighbouring sight-seeing gondolas on one trip, and therefore concludes that it is reasonable to expect that the Norquay gondola will simply divide up Banff’s existing sight-seeing gondola market in some fashion rather than being additive.
Not likely. Like aerial transit to Norquay, intercept parking is a means to reduce vehicle congestion and its associated problems once visitors have made the decision to come to Banff, rather than being a factor in the decision to come to Banff. The experience of other towns and cities with intercept parking suggests visitor satisfaction on intercept parking hinges on the efficient availability of buses and shuttles to take visitors from intercept parking to their desired destination.
The proposed gondola would cross directly over the Norquay Road bridge that runs atop of the TransCanada highway. In the case of a gondola evacuation, the Norquay Road bridge would need to be closed but the TransCanada highway would remain open.
Since restarting summer business in 2014, Norquay has taken a number of steps to limit road traffic on the Norquay access road, including offerings free shuttles and encouraging car pooling with ticket price reduction on select days. Total visitation to Norquay during both winter and summer months in the last four years (2014-2017) is less than 1% higher than Norquay’s winter only visitation in 2013 – the last year before summer sightseeing business was restarted.
The gondola itself will be built as much as possible to blend into the natural environment, including keeping towers where possible below the tree line and using unobtrusive materials and colours for the cars and towers. By crossing directly over the Norquay Road bridge versus the TransCanada Highway, the visual impact of the gondola from the highway is minimized. Importantly, aerial transit and intercept parking will eliminate bumper to bumper traffic jams – terrible eyesores in a national park.
Parks Canada will make the decision.
No. Based on the gondola’s potential to result in a substantial environmental gain for the Cascade Wildlife Corridor, the potential for aerial transit to Norquay has been part of the policy framework governing Norquay for many years, especially this past decade. Both the Banff Management Plan (2010) and Norquay Site Guidelines (2013) make reference to aerial transit as a creative solution to aiding the restoration of the Cascade Wildlife Corridor and allow Norquay to pursue the feasibility of a gondola from Banff to the ski area. In 2015, Parks Canada provided Norquay with the terms of reference for a gondola feasibility study, which Norquay submitted for consideration in May 2018. Any approval from Parks Canada requires completion of an Environmental Impact Assessment.
On March 4, 2019, Banff Town Council approved the Terms of Reference for an Area Redevelopment Plan for the rail district at the Banff Train Station. With that approval as a guide, Liricon is now preparing a site plan which will include a railway heritage district. We hope to share our plans for this development with the community in the summer.
On February 27, 2019, officials from Banff, Canmore, Cochrane and Calgary announced the results of the Bow Valley Mass Transit Feasibility Study. One option is the development of a dedicated passenger line from downtown Calgary to Banff. Liricon is focused on the potential of extending the line from downtown Calgary to the airport, understanding CPs requirements for twinning the existing line, and assembling the required capital, from both public and private sources, that a government agency would require to construct the line and operate the service.
Liricon Capital is the holding company of Banff locals Jan and Adam Waterous and their three children. In addition to the long-term lease for the rail lands at the train station, the Waterous family owns the Norquay ski hill. The Waterous Family has lived in Banff for approximately 22 years.
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