Banff Avenue Pedestrian Zone
Public Opinions about Banff’s Downtown Pedestrian Zone (PDF) - October 13, 2020
The 100 and 200 blocks of Banff Avenue and a portion of Caribou Street will be closed to vehicle traffic this summer to provide more space for pedestrians to practice physical distancing, and to provide local businesses with more space for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These closures will allow residents and visitors to adhere to Alberta Health Services regulations to remain 2 metres/6 feet away from others while exploring downtown Banff.
Cycling will be permitted within the pedestrian zone subject to signage indicating cyclists yield to pedestrians and maintain a ‘dead slow’ speed and transit will be allowed in the zone.
More room to visit businesses
This location is traditionally the busiest pedestrian area in the Town of Banff. The closure, in addition to providing space for physical distancing for pedestrians, will provide more space for customers accessing businesses on Banff Avenue. Restaurants and stores have limits on interior occupancy. Businesses may offer sidewalk seating and retail displays along the pedestrian zone, while ensuring people can maintain two-metre distance from others. Several businesses on nearby Bear Street will also be able to set up displays on Banff Avenue while construction takes place on that road (http://brandnewbear.ca). Banff’s economy is significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and this is one measure to help businesses safely operate.
Changes in 2021
It’s our belief is that 2021 will experience visitation volumes on par or higher than 2020. While it is unclear what the requirements for social distancing will be in the summer of 2021, it is believed that a pedestrian zone will be an attraction for visitors regardless of COVID. If these assumptions prove correct, it is fair to assume that pedestrian volumes in the downtown will be as high in 2021 as they were in 2020, if not higher. In response, we’re increasing the amount of space available for pedestrian movement by keeping both interior traffic lanes clear of commercial activity.
Caribou Street for 2021
On Caribou Street, there will be a flipped configuration from 2020 which places restaurants adjacent to buildings and along sidewalks, leaving a walking lane in the middle. Given the conflicts observed between passing pedestrians and restaurant queues on this street in 2020, it is believed that this will create a more effective pedestrian environment in the centre of the street and still allow Caribou restaurants a similar amount of space for outdoor seating.
No Tents in 2021
Event-style tents as used in 2020 for restaurants will not be permitted as part of a future pedestrian zone. Restaurants must make use of other devices for barriers and make use of sun umbrellas for weather protection.
Banff Avenue is an important transportation corridor for vehicles. The closure of 2 blocks in the downtown core will create some traffic congestion, likely on busy summer days due to the detours.
Vehicle traffic will be diverted to adjacent streets, such as Lynx Street, Beaver Street, and to a lesser extent, Muskrat and Otter streets – on the east side of Banff Avenue, and Lynx and Buffalo streets – to the west and south of Banff Avenue. Access to the south side through detours and Buffalo Street will be maintained.
To deal with congestion, the Town of Banff is implementing a number of tactics, including:
- Parking / Wayfinding ambassadors at intercept parking lots
One service that was warmly embraced by visitors in 2020 was the use of ambassadors on Bear Street to guide visitors through the construction activity occurring on that street. Employing the same tactic in intercept parking lots would provide an additional incentive for people parked in those lots to orient themselves and obtain information.
- Restoration of intercept parking lot shuttle services
In 2019, a contract shuttle service was offered for visitors using the Train Station parking lot. In 2020 that service was postponed due to financial and operational constraints. Restoring that service or a similar alternative would offer an incentive for users of intercept parking facilities who may have mobility challenges or are reluctant for other reasons to walk downtown. While in the past this has been focussed on bus infrastructure there may be alternatives such as microshuttles using small electric vehicles that may be as effective.
- Cycling supports
2020 saw a surge in cycling in Banff National Park, particularly for visitors experiencing the closure of the Bow Valley Parkway and the ever-popular Legacy Trail. Providing services to these users could improve their experience as well as encourage them to enter the downtown core. Examples could involve providing opportunities for expanded rental fleets within intercept parking lots, establishing service benches and repair stations, providing restroom facilities, and using ambassador staff to orient cyclists to downtown services.
- Increased intercept lot diversion tactics
Despite efforts to maximize the use of the train station intercept parking lot, occupancy at the public parking lot was observed to be below 50% for most of the summer. Administration believes that higher occupancies in intercept parking facilities are an important metric of success, and would likely seek input from key stakeholders and transportation consultants to determine what tactics are needed including:
- Directional signage program;
- Flagging / ambassadors at key locations; and / or
- Roundabout reconfiguration at Lynx / Railway.
Other options are also being considered by Council during the 2021 Service Review, including:
- Conversion of downtown stalls to short term parking
By converting longer-term parking stalls to shorter terms, visitors who want to stay for longer periods may be more inclined to seek out long-term (e.g. intercept) parking locations
- Removal of downtown parking stalls
Removal of stalls downtown could encourage long-term parkers to seek intercept parking as an alternative
- Visitor pay parking
Visitor paid parking downtown coupled with free intercept parking would be a significant motivator to make use of intercept parking.
Banff is only 4 square kilometres in area. Parking is very limited and navigating will be affected by detours. Visitors to the Banff townsite should plan their route to one of the main parking lots, all within 10 minutes walking distance of the downtown core.
- If staying overnight in a hotel or camping, enter Banff from the TransCanada Highway at the Banff Avenue/Lake Minnewanka entrance
- If visiting Banff for the day, enter the townsite from the Mount Norquay Road entrance
- Use banffparking.ca to find parking lots with available spaces, and the best route to the location
- The closure area has two accessible stalls which will be relocated to Wolf Street and Buffalo Street to maintain access
- The horse carriage will not travel down Banff Avenue during the closure
- Banff Avenue Roam Public Transit stops will be relocated to Beaver Street
- Landscape planters will be installed and configured as guides to pedestrian movement, while also creating an inviting environment
- Sidewalk Seating Permits - Outdoor Merchandise Display Permits
In 2020, the pedestrian zone expenses totalled $138,641 of an anticipated $175,000. In 2021, the estimated cost is $114,000.