The Town of Banff will implement Visitor-Pay Parking and a Resident Permit System this summer, to address long-standing parking and traffic issues in the 4-square-kilometre town site.
The program is scheduled to start in May to address parking challenges caused by limited spaces and an expected increase in traffic over the 4 million annual visitors coming to the national park. Visitor-pay parking combined with free parking in large lots on the periphery of downtown will increase availability of parking downtown by charging for short-stay parking and by encouraging longer term parkers (such as commuters) to park outside the downtown core.
“We have been dealing with traffic congestion in Banff for a number of decades and we cannot build our way out of this problem – and we can’t expand outside our town boundaries into the national park to create more parking. We know it has been frustrating for residents and visitors circling our downtown looking for a parking space, even the past summer during the global pandemic,” said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen.
“Now, we have the conditions that didn’t exist before that will make it beneficial to introduce visitor-pay parking to increase the turnover of short-term parking spaces in the downtown, while providing an incentive for visitors and commuters to use longer-term free parking located outside the downtown core.”
Banff Town Council decided to implement the integrated parking program during budget debates in late January, based on a plan that was revised after two-phases of public consultation in 2019 and 2020.
The parking system integrates 4 main elements:
- Free, 9-hour parking in the Bear Street Parkade upper 3 levels, on Bow Avenue and in the new 500-stall Train Station Public Parking Lot (8-minute walk to downtown or free weekend shuttle)
- Visitor-pay parking starting in May in the downtown core ($3/hour in summer and $2/hour next winter, in parking lots or on-street)
- Roam Public Transit system (now serves all main attractions in town and through Banff National Park, connects Canmore and Lake Louise, and offers a free shuttle from the Train Station to downtown on summer weekends)
- Parking on downtown residential streets is restricted to vehicles with Resident Parking Permits (prevents spill-over of non-residents looking to avoid pay parking)
Visitors will be able to download a parking app before they arrive and use their mobile phones to pay when they park, or use a pay station on the street for coin or card payment. Licence plate reader technology eliminates the need to display a dashboard pass or receipt. All of downtown is one paid parking zone, eliminating the need to find the number for a particular street or lot. The Town’s parking website banffparking.ca provides a map showing all parking lots within the Town and their capacity.
Although the goal was not to increase revenue, the paid parking system is expected to cover all costs for implementing the system. Surplus revenue will be directed to a dedicated reserve that will cover the cost of the Resident Parking Permit system, and may be used to help subsidise the costs of maintaining parking stalls, public transit or other transportation costs. Currently, nearly 2,000 free parking spaces downtown cost town taxpayers about $265,000 to maintain the parking spaces.
Visitors to Banff National Park must buy a Park Pass for day visits or annual passes. Fees for Park Passes go to Parks Canada for visitor services and facilities in the park. The Town of Banff does not receive any revenue from the sale of parks passes.
Town Council is meeting in early 2021 to earmark the use of any additional revenue from the paid parking system. Public consultation identified options such as funding road maintenance and snow clearing, transit enhancements, bicycle networks, environmental and sidewalk programs.
For more information on how visitors will use the system and a map of the paid zone,
visit the Visitor-Pay Parking web page.
Resident Parking Permits
Any resident in Banff will be able to register their vehicle to be allowed to park for free for three consecutive hours each day in the paid downtown zone. The permit will be free for residents. Based on feedback from public consultation, residents can register an unlimited vehicles for their dwelling, and any resident will be allowed to park on the restricted downtown residential streets.
The Resident Parking Permit system will prevent non-residents from parking on the designated downtown residential streets, encouraging longer-term use of the free parking at the Train Station, along Bow Avenue, and in the Town’s only parkade on Bear Street.
Residents participated over two phases of consultation in 2019 and 2020, and provided over 1,100 submissions with more than 45,000 unique comments on the elements of the parking proposals.
Parking will be enforced using licence plate recognition technology used by patrolling staff. A placard will be not be required for display.
“We know this topic has come before the residents in the past, but the traffic congestion and parking problems are not going away and, in fact, are expected to increase by 2% each year,” said Mayor Sorensen. “We have benefits that were not available in the past to make this work. With an effective transit system, a new large free parking lot, and controls to prevent non-residents from parking on residential streets downtown, this new system will maintain three-hour parking for residents, and provide options for visitors – free or pay parking just like in other cities’ downtown areas.”
Transportation studies show 30% of traffic congestion in urban centres can be attributed to drivers circling looking for a parking spot, if there is not a system to make parking more available.
“Maintaining good air quality and addressing climate change associated with GHGs is also a priority for our community, and reducing traffic congestion, expanding transit, and linking cycling and pedestrian networks will help maintain our clean mountain air in Canada’s first national park.”
Examples of how the parking system will work for residents:
- A resident from Middle Springs or Cave Avenue could park for free beside the Post Office from 1 to 2 p.m., then move to the Bear Street surface parking lot from 2 to 4 p.m. - for free because it is 3 consecutive hours in the paid zone
- A resident could park for free on Lynx Street from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., but if they park again after 1 p.m. (3 hours after the start of the first parking session that day), the resident would need to either park for free in one of the free spaces in the parkade or pay to park in a paid space downtown.
- A resident from Spray Avenue could park outside a residence on Muskrat Street all day, if their vehicle is registered with a permit.
- A visitor from Calgary could park in free 9-hour parking lots on Bow Avenue, the Train Station, or the Bear Street Parkade upper floors, or pay to park in the downtown paid zone
Visit details and maps on the Resident Parking Permits program.
For more information: banff.ca/parking