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Smart Cities
The Town of Banff has submitted a grant application to the Smart Cities Challenge. The following questions were asked as part of the application. Learn more about the Smart Cities Challenge.


Question 1

Please provide information on the community that is submitting this application. If this application is being submitted by a group of communities, add each community separately using the button. If this application is being submitted by a regional entity, please include the name of the regional entity with each individual community (e.g. City of Dunn/Smith Region). Do not include the regional entity as a separate, stand-alone community.

Community (Town of Banff)

Name of community Town of Banff
Province or Territory Alberta
Population based on 7851
Indigenous community No

Question 2

Please select a prize category.

$10 million (population under 500,000 residents)

Question 3

Please define your Challenge Statement in a single sentence that guides your preliminary proposal. It should describe the outcome (or outcomes) you hope to achieve.

Banff will eliminate downtown vehicle congestion by reducing peak traffic volumes over the Bow River Bridge by 10%. This will be achieved through the integration of smart transportation technology that encourages and inspires visitors and residents to eagerly adopt sustainable, convenient transit while they explore our community.

Question 4

Please describe the outcome (or outcomes) your proposal seeks to achieve by elaborating on your Challenge Statement.

This section should include:

  • Specific goals you hope to achieve by implementing your proposal, justifying both the level of ambition and the achievability of the outcome (or outcomes) sought.
  • Baseline data and evidence to establish the current state with respect to the metrics used in your Challenge Statement, and context around the outcome (or outcomes) sought.
  • Evidence to support the selection of this/these outcome (or outcomes) over others, in reference to the needs of the community.
  • Rationale for applying a smart city approach to achieving the identified outcome (or outcomes).
  • Strategy for measuring progress toward outcome (or outcomes) and achievement of outcome (or outcomes).

Banff is Canada’s home town. An incorporated municipality within Canada’s first and most popular national park, the town, like the national park, belongs to all Canadians.

Just 3.9 square kilometers, Banff’s townsite boundaries and its commercial development are capped. The permanent population must meet the need-to-reside regulations of the National Parks Act: to live in Banff, you must be employed in Banff. These constraints, willingly embraced by the community, and necessary to protect the visitor experience, nonetheless places pressure on the small community and how it meets its challenges.

In 2017, visitation to Banff National Park exceeded 4 million. The vast majority of them, 93%, arrived in their own vehicles. The volume of traffic through peak periods exceeds Banff’s road capacity on its arterial roads. In 2017, volume has exceeded 20,000 vehicles per day (vpd) capacity every day in July and August.
Cars, trucks, RVs and tour buses jockey for position on narrow streets, parking lots are full by mid-morning, motorists circle looking for parking and inch their way across the townsite, adding to congestion and spilling into residential neighbourhoods. It’s not what anyone envisions their national park experience to be, and it is harming residents’ quality of life, the air quality in the national park, the town’s economic stability and Canada’s reputation in the global tourism marketplace.

A limited land base and Banff’s commitment to being an environmental role model means we cannot build our way out of traffic congestion and lack of parking. We must embrace more creative solutions to managing traffic volumes. Nor can we address today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. We must look to the latest in smart technology, in clean, renewable energy, and in land use planning, and consider the next generation of Canadians and their quality of life. The Town’s goal is to provide a multi-modal transportation system that is economically and environmentally sustainable, and that enhances the lives of residents and the experience of visitors.

We wish to inspire and foster a shift to transit and active modes by visitors and our residents, whatever the season, wherever the destination in the national park. Through a demonstration and trial project, residents and visitors will understand the future of transportation in Banff – and elsewhere in the world – is based on smart transit that uses data, deep learning and connectivity to operate efficiently and safely. The future is innovative transit solutions that enhance mobility, reduces cost and are powered with renewable resources.

The Town, with its partners, is building an integrated transportation system, with future rail and bus transit from Calgary connecting to local, regional and park service. Parks Canada is investing in conventional transit and shuttles within the national park. The Town’s transit system, Roam, was the first all-hybrid fleet in Canada when it launched in 2008. It expanded to a regional service under the management of Alberta’s first regional transit commission, in 2012, and has been a Canadian leader in cost recovery and ridership per capita.

The Town has invested in smart technology, including publically accessible traffic cameras, vehicular travel time sensors, infrared counters and pedestrian sensors. The information collected is correlated to other data, such as hotel occupancy and transit ridership, so the Town can calculate travel times, determine visitor origin and length of stay, predict congestion levels and adapt and monitor traffic management accordingly. Banff’s fleet, including transit buses, are GPS equipped, and NextBus real time vehicle tracking information is streamed to signs at stops and to personal devices through an app. No personal data is collected.
Real time data is streamed to the Town’s traffic dashboard on its website, (//banff.ca/dashboard) so that residents and visitors are able to make travel decisions based on actual conditions. They can use the information to find an empty parking stall, or find out when the next bus is arriving.

A new pedestrian bridge and an enhanced trail network is encouraging more active modes – pedestrian/cycling across the Bow River has increased by 77% since 2014. Nevertheless, mode share remains static, and 78% of travellers over the Bow River are in private vehicles.

The Town and its partners continue to develop strategies and implement tactics to change behaviour. The next step is addressing the first mile/last mile segment of the journey, so when visitors arrive in Banff – whether by public transit or by personal vehicle – are able and keen to walk, cycle or hop on shuttles to explore the townsite, and take the many transit options to travel further afield.

To encourage the transition to transit and active modes, the Town’s smart cities application proposes that Banff be the trial location for the next generation of transportation. Accessible, frequent and user-friendly transit pods that travel even short distances on Banff Avenue, and potentially across the Bow River and across town, will encourage visitors and residents to leave their cars behind and board transit. They’ll want to, just for the futuristic experience. Once they’ve experienced its convenience, they will turn to transit again and again. They will also come to learn that the future of getting around, in Banff and in Canada, is changing for the better.

These transit pods also have the potential to be autonomous. Autonomous vehicles use various advanced control systems to analyze and interpret sensory data. Their potential benefits include enhanced mobility for children, the elderly and the disabled, reduced need for parking space, reduced fossil fuel use, reduced infrastructure costs, and increased safety. Trials are underway in various parts of the world, such as England, Switzerland, the United States, China, Australia and Singapore. The City of Calgary is participating in a trial in September for a month between the Telus Spark science museum and Calgary Zoo. As the location of a longer, more meaningful Canadian trial, Banff offers both an urban and rural transportation network, a small, controlled environment, significant population mass for testing public acceptance, and a variety of weather conditions, all against a spectacular backdrop.

The proposed trial would foster transit use and shift behaviour. Our desired outcomes in the short term are:
1. Use of the intercept lot during trial period is 75% of capacity or higher on peak days.
2. Transit ridership on local routes is increased by 100% on peak days.
3. Private vehicle mode share over the Bow River Bridge is reduced by 3,000 vehicles per day on peak days.

By 2040, when smart transit is fully adopted and frequent transit from Calgary is offered, the goal is to reduce private vehicle mode share by 50%.

Question 5

Please describe how your community residents have shaped your Challenge Statement. Describe your plans for continuing to engage and involve them in your final proposal going forward.

This section should include:

  • Descriptions of previous engagement with residents, businesses, organizations, and other stakeholders on topics related to the Challenge Statement.
  • Descriptions of feedback that came to light through past engagement processes.
  • Links between the Challenge Statement and engagement feedback.
  • Evidence of efforts made to be inclusive and to represent the community's diversity.
  • Plans to sustain engagement through the development and implementation of the final proposal.

In 2012, Banff launched public engagement on its transportation masterplan. We asked residents and visitors how we might overcome our transportation challenges – peak time congestion, lack of parking, lack of cycling-friendly infrastructure, limited pedestrian connections. We held surveys, discussion boards, stakeholder interviews and open houses. We asked residents to pin their ideas on an online map and then modelled the most popular ideas to determine if they were feasible. To encourage feedback, anyone could participate anonymously.

The engagement hasn’t stopped. In all resident satisfaction surveys since 2010, residents have pointed to increasing traffic volumes, congestion and lack of parking as some of the top issues facing Banff. After the transportation masterplan was developed, we started digging into recommended long-term solutions. We held more stakeholder interviews, included transportation and transit questions in visitor surveys, and in 2016 held an online open house for residents and stakeholders on three future scenarios. We received excellent feedback and clear direction from respondents — residents and regular visitors alike — pursue transit and look to the future. There was little appetite for increasing road capacity to accommodate an increasing volume of cars. Comment highlights:

“Transportation that people can use together makes more sense for the environment and decrease single car traffic.

“Anything to reduce the amount of traffic is a good idea and electric buses would reduce emissions.

“Let's look ahead a few years, not to predict the future, but to achieve the future we want... we need to get out front and design for the world we want to live in 5 or 10 years from now, thinking seriously about technologies and society's expectations at that time. The only way to reduce traffic is to get cars off the roads that are overcrowded.”

“Mak(e) the town friendly to driver-less vehicles. Partner with a company working on this technology to run a bus/taxi like service from an intercept lot.”

“As a role model town, Banff can inspire visitors to look to the future by encouraging reducing fossil fuel use by visitors and promote arriving in Banff by bus or train . . . a large core area of Banff townsite (should be) strictly for pedestrian and bicycle use with good transit systems and intercept parking. The townsite has a growth cap which needs to be adhered to and respected.”

“Convert existing travel lanes to bus lanes. (Add) cycle tracks and other cycling infrastructure.”

“We can lead a new way of approaching things...just as was done for the successful and forward-thinking fencing of the highway and wildlife over/under passes. We can show that we deeply value the landscape and wildlife and are willing to make difficult decisions to protect them.”

The discussion continues. We are entering the next phase of the long-term strategy – significantly expanding conventional transit services in the community, and into the national park alongside Parks Canada – and we are asking our residents through online discussion to envision the future of Banff and how technology will change the very way we live and move through it.

Other engagement activities include a transportation themed future fair in 2019 featuring speakers, panel discussions, workshops, games and demos. The engagement goal is to involve residents and stakeholders creatively in the design of Banff’s future transportation system, rather than simply asking for their opinion. If they build it, they will embrace it.

To date, total outreach on transportation in Banff over the last six years exceeds 4,500 contacts. Surveys, comment cards and discussion boards are always open to all residents. In some cases, the Town will collect responses from visitors.

Question 6

Please describe your preliminary proposal and its activities or projects.

This section should include:

  • Planned activities or projects to achieve the outcome (or outcomes) set out in the Challenge Statement.
  • Clear links from the identified projects to the attainment of the outcome (or outcomes).
  • Scope and size of each planned project in your preliminary proposal, describing how it is feasible and suitable for achieving the outcome (or outcomes) in a manner that is impactful for the community, ambitious, and transformative.
  • Measures put in place to 1) make the proposal open, interoperable, scalable, and replicable or a description of your plan to do so going forward for the benefit of your own community and other communities in Canada; and 2) enable other uses of the technology, innovation, and data in your proposal.

As discussed in Outcomes, the Town is intending to increase its use of smart technologies in the transportation industry to address a significant congestion and quality of life challenge in the town and in the national park. Traffic volume exceeds road capacity in Banff every day of the summer and during holiday periods. More than 6.6 million vehicles entered and exited the townsite in 2017. The volume of vehicles and the resultant congestion is harming residents’ quality of life, the air quality in the national park, the town’s economic stability, and Canada’s reputation in the global tourism marketplace, in addition to the national park experience.

Using smart technology, the Town of Banff and its partners, are sharing data to inform traffic and people movement management strategies. Through long-term planning and public consultation, the Town, with the support of local stakeholders, is focusing on an integrated mass transit system as the solution. We are currently promoting and investing in conventional transit and infrastructure for active modes, and investigating passenger rail and other modes in future. We are currently employing smart technologies such as roadside traffax sensors of digital devices, infrared counters, and pedestrian sensors.

The proposal is to explore, test and ultimately employ the first mile/last mile component of the transportation system, to further encourage transit use and active modes, and to effectively demonstrate the future in transit and transportation to all Canadians.

The Town proposes itself as the long-term demonstration site for electric transit pods (potentially autonomous), such as currently in trial and in use in Europe, Asia, the United States and Australia. If the demonstration and trial proves the feasibility of integrating autonomous transit in the system, the Town of Banff would expect to adopt it permanently.

There’s no better location in Canada for a trial of this nature than Banff. Annual visitation exceeds four million, similar to large urban areas, yet the townsite is a small, controlled footprint inside a protected and preserved national park, and committed to environmental sustainability. The current transportation network serves both urban and rural or natural destinations and a variety of terrain, which makes the Banff location unique among the trials.

Banff’s community values its role as stewards of Banff National Park, its goal of being a model community in environmental management. The Town of Banff’s mandate to provide the necessary services for park visitors and a healthy, sustainable community for the residents who deliver those services. This reflects a commitment to sustainable, smart solutions.

Communities across the country can share in what is learned through the demonstration and trial, as it happens, and easily replicate a first mile/last mile system of their own based on the findings.
Banff is already partnering with its neighbours, the Town of Canmore and ID #9, as well as with Parks Canada and the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission on transit. These partners, along with the City of Calgary, Town of Cochrane and the Alberta government, have worked together on the Bow Valley rail/bus study. It’s anticipated that these collaborations would continue through this next phase.

The demonstration is anticipated to run from May through September. Four pods would travel from Banff Heritage Train Station to downtown Banff servicing the intercept parking lot; four to six could operate the length of Banff Avenue, servicing the town’s main accommodation area and densest residential areas. Fares would be free to further improve accessibility. These routes link to all regional, local and Calgary transit routes, as well as to private shuttles.

Initially during the demonstration, it is envisioned the pods would travel in prioritized bus lanes. Prioritized lanes for transit and shuttles, and reduced lanes for personal vehicles, would put private vehicles on a ‘road diet’, a cost-effective disincentive to driving. Visitors will observe that the transit pods move unimpeded, as do cyclists and pedestrians, and prefer these modes to private vehicles. The sedate speed of the pod will act as a traffic calming measure for private vehicles as well. Ten- to 15-minute frequency, low floor accessibility for buggies and wheelchairs, quiet operation will encourage use. The free fare adds further convenience and has already proven to foster transit use. (Hotels in Banff currently offer free transit passes to their guests and Parks Canada offers campers free rides into Town.)

The Town is constructing additional transit vehicle storage in the industrial area, but it may be more efficient to store and recharge the pods in one of the nearby public or private parkades. Banff has public EV chargers at hotel properties and in the public parkade. Maintenance and repairs would be managed by the technology partners during the project, which would offer Town staff opportunity to be trained in it.

The demonstration project would gather information on public response and engagement to transit pods, their ability to effectively serve as first mile/last mile component of an integrated transportation system, performance in a variety of weather conditions, performance on flat terrain to start, though we can easily toss in a few Rocky Mountain slopes, interaction with conventional traffic, as well as cyclists and pedestrians, identification of infrastructure and other barriers that would impact adoption and resolution of same.

Upon completion of adequate demonstration and trial period, if proven, it is anticipated that the system be permanently adopted in Banff. It would also provide a blueprint for implementation in other Canadian municipalities, including elsewhere in the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services network.

The trial and potential adoption of transit pods, or autonomous vehicles in general, will fundamentally change life for Banff residents, and our visitors. In addition to reducing the harmful health and environmental effects of congestion, the shift in technology will change lifestyles. In general, personal car ownership may not be required, or desired, and families will realize a cost savings in transportation. Infrastructure needs will change and expensive vehicle parking requirements a thing of the past. This reduces the cost of building housing, which will enable the Town to plan more affordable housing complexes. The risks associated with human error in driving are reduced. Mobility opportunities for seniors and the disabled are increased. In Banff, there will be less need to own a vehicle, less vehicle ownership and ultimately, we will be moving people, not cars.

Question 7

Please describe the ways in which your preliminary proposal supports your community's medium and long-term goals, strategies, and plans.

To supplement your response, please upload any relevant documents and make clear linkages and references.

Our proposed demonstration, designed to build on smart technology to foster transit use and decrease traffic volumes, supports the environmental, social and economic goals articulated in the Banff Community Plan. The plan was adopted in 2009 and approved by the federal Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, as are all Banff bylaws. The goals include being a model community in environmental management, offering a transportation system that encourages and complements pedestrian and cycling movement. The focus is on being sustainable – providing services and active living programs for residents to foster a vital and healthy community, while showcasing Banff as an environmental and hospitality leader. Our goal is to create a memorable national park experience by providing infrastructure that meets current and future needs of residents and visitors.

Sustainable transportation has been a council priority since 2012, when the transportation masterplan update began. The goal of the Sustainable Transportation priority has been to “provide a multi-modal transportation system that is economically and environmentally sustainable and that enhances the lives of residents and the experience of visitors.”

Measurable objectives include:
• Increase by 15% the number of residents choosing active modes to commute to work, as reported on the municipal census
• Increase Roam public transit ridership on Banff routes by 15% over 2014 levels, and double the summer ridership on Route 1 to Sulphur Mountain
• Increase ridership on the Roam Banff – Canmore route by 30% over 2014 levels
• Double the percentage of Canmore commuters using Roam (as reported in Canmore census)

The project addresses recommendations in the Long-Term Transportation Study to reduce private vehicle volumes by implementing (or expanding) mass transit solutions.

Question 8

Please describe your community's readiness and ability to implement your proposal successfully.

This section should include:

  • Experience with implementing complex projects (i.e. multi-stakeholder, multi-dimensional) that span multiple business lines and functional units.
  • Structures, processes, and practices in place or planned for managing and implementing complex projects that span multiple business lines and functional units.
  • Organizational strengths and potential weaknesses for managing and implementing a smart city proposal, and plans to address weaknesses to ensure successful proposal management and implementation.

The Town has recently completed a Long-Term Transportation Study and is currently leading a passenger rail/bus study. Both look to mass transit as the future of transportation in Banff and to Banff. The rail/bus study considers the feasibility and timing of the return of passenger rail or bus mass transit between Calgary and Banff.

The Town and Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission completed an assessment of transit service in 2017. One of the recommendations of the assessment is to employ shuttles from the train station to connect to the Roam public transit hub on Banff Avenue, with autonomous vehicles as a future consideration.

The Town has a history of successfully implementing transportation systems. The transit system, Roam, was launched in 2008, with the first all-hybrid fleet in Canada. The system was among the top in the country for cost recovery and ridership per capita. Ridership consistently exceeds half a million annually. Expansion into the park and neighbouring communities was envisioned from the start, and in 2012 the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission became the first regional transit authority in Alberta. The Towns of Banff and Canmore and ID#9 are voting partners. Roam served nearly 1 million riders in 2017.

In 2012, the Town needed to replace its sewer main crossing the Bow River. The fragile river environment necessitated some out-of-the box thinking and an overhead crossing of pipes was determined the best environmental solution. Banff had long desired a pedestrian bridge but the price tag was prohibitive for the small town. By combining the projects, it was possible to save more than $2 million on the total of the two budgets. Delivered on budget and early, it has since been recognized around the world for its unique construction. Since its opening in 2013, the bridge has experienced a 77% increase in pedestrian crossings of the Bow River.

The Town’s summer traffic management program began in 2013 with the adoption of the Transportation Masterplan. The plan includes the use of data to predict traffic volumes, and it provides traffic current conditions and travel times, as well as parking capacity in all downtown lots. This information is shared with stakeholders such as accommodation providers, tour and activity providers and emergency services, as well as the general public, all to assist travel decisions before heading out on the road.


The Town is well positioned to develop an implementation plan with its residents, stakeholders and partners, provide the necessary infrastructure and data to make transit pods possible in Banff, and attracts sufficient national and international attention and interest to make a demonstration project a success.

Question 9

Describe your plan for using the $250,000 grant, should you be selected as a finalist. Provide a high-level breakdown of spending categories and an accompanying rationale.

The first step to successfully implement the proposal is further community engagement in the implementation design. Residents will want to play a role in the design of the system so that their quality of lives are enhanced by the demonstration, and ultimate adoption. The cost for this engagement and promotion during the design and development phase is approximately $25,000.

The Town will partner with the Bow Valley Transit Services Commission in all steps. Together, we will prepare and issue a call for proposal from a research organization/consultant firm with knowledge and experience in autonomous vehicles.

The successful proponent will assist in the development of the project plan, which involves confirming the opportunity, assessing the feasibility, identifying resource and infrastructure gaps and recommending solutions. It will also include identifying data and information gaps and recommending solutions, as well as assisting in securing partners to provide vehicles and operational assistance. Additional IT support may be needed for the project, as will a project manager.

Question 10

Describe the partners that are or will be involved in your proposal. Where partners are not yet determined, describe the process for selecting them.

This section should include:

  • A description of existing partners (what type of organization, what they do, etc.), their relevance, and expected contribution to the outcome (or outcomes).
  • Where partners are not yet determined or where it is anticipated that additional partners are required, describe the process for selecting them.

The Town of Banff will partner with the Bow Valley Transit Services Commission in all aspects of the project. The Town also intends to involve the Town of Canmore and ID #9 in the planning of the project, as funding and voting members of the Transit Services Commission.

Preliminary investigation in the testing of transit pods elsewhere in the world has led the Town to already identify a number of potential research and study partners. The selection of a research partner through a competitive RFP process, would lead to technology partners and vendors. It’s expected the research partner/consultant would assist initially with the development of the implementation plan as described above, and in the observations and analysis of the trial.