A study released today suggests bus or passenger rail transit service between Calgary and Banff National Park would be feasible, and the report provides ridership and cost estimates.
The study was commissioned by the towns of Banff, Canmore and Cochrane, the City of Calgary and Improvement District 9 to examine mass transit as a way to reduce the number of low-occupant private vehicles along the corridor and in the national park.
“It is widely known that in several locations, at certain times during peak summer season, road networks in the Bow Valley experience traffic congestion,” said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen. “Mass transit by passenger rail or bus coach has long been identified as a potential solution to reduce congestion caused by low-occupant personal vehicles in the Bow Valley corridor.”
The study estimates a bus service could have total ridership ranging from 200,000 to 490,000 bus boardings per year. For Passenger Rail, ridership is estimated between 220,000 and 620,000 per year in the first year, on the full route.
“With more than 50% of day visitors to Banff National Park coming from the Calgary Region, mass transit is an obvious way to reduce the growing impacts of vehicle traffic,” said Dave Schebek, Chair of the Improvement District 9, which is based in Lake Louise.
The report calculated costs based on an adult fare of between $10 and $15, for either service.
For the bus service, year-round scenarios are estimated to have capital costs ranging from $8.1 million to $19.6 million. The operating cost for bus – after removing revenue from fares – would be approximately $2 to $2.3 million per year, with the lower figure corresponding to the high ridership scenario.
For passenger rail, the consultants estimate the required capital costs would range from $660 million to $680 million. The estimated operating cost for passenger rail, after fare revenue is considered, would be between $8.1 million to $9.1 million per year, with the lower amount corresponding to the high ridership scenario.
The study partners state that the costs would be too much for the municipalities, and any form of mass transit service in the region would require involvement from other orders of government. The municipalities will continue working to examine options and involve other stakeholders.
“This study is a first step on the journey – this information will help partner communities and stakeholders evaluate options and next steps,” said Jeff Genung, Mayor of Cochrane.
Canmore’s Deputy Mayor, Vi Sandford agreed: “There is a lot in this study. We want to start by inviting residents, stakeholder organizations and other communities in the Bow Valley to learn about the findings and join a wider discussion.”
The full study is available at:
For more information, contact:
Jason Darrah, Communications
Town of Banff
Alberta Municipal Affairs provided an Alberta Community Partnership Grant of $350,000 to fund the study on the feasibility of establishing a mass transit service between the partner communities. The Town of Banff hired the independent consultant CPCS Transcom Limited (CPCS) to complete the study with data from the municipalities and regional stakeholders.
Since 2007, Banff National Park has seen visitation increase by an average of 2.6% per year. As over 93% (3.89 million) of visitors arrive in personal vehicles, this increase in visitation results in road congestion, particularly during the summer months, and associated negative impacts (e.g. longer travel times, more greenhouse gas emissions, increased traffic on wildlife corridors, and reduced visitor experience). In Banff, delays above normal travel times of 10 to 20 minutes or longer are not uncommon when roadway capacity is exceeded. Banff manually overrides the traffic lights to help move more vehicles through certain intersections. Other areas in Banff National Park are similarly affected.
Without any mitigating action, congestion is anticipated to worsen, driven by population increases in nearby Calgary and a growing tourism and hospitality industry in Banff National Park. In the busiest months of July and August, roadway capacity in Banff was exceeded and congestion or substantial congestion occurred on 97% of days in 2017, up from 15% in 2013. A recent study found that, in 2020, the equivalent of approximately 8,710 vehicles per day would need to be removed to avoid congestion in Banff should traffic continue to grow at the same rate.
Feasibility Study Service Scenarios
- A bus service would travel along the Trans-Canada Highway, with deviations as required to serve intermediate communities.
- A passenger rail service would utilize a new parallel track along the CP right-of-way, if an agreement was reached with CP.
- Three ridership and service scenarios were developed – low, medium and high. Bus and rail service scenarios were developed to provide capacity in line with the estimated ridership.
- All scenarios would provide all-day service, though the frequency would vary depending on the demand.
- In the bus scenarios, a single-deck highway coach would be used in low and medium ridership forecast scenario, and a double-deck coach is envisioned for the high ridership scenario.
- In the rail scenarios, the consultant assumed a high-floor diesel with three-car sets, for the low and medium scenarios, or a locomotive-hauled train in the high scenario.
- Frequency for a bus service would range from 21 to 26 round trips per day, in summer, and 14 to 19 round trips in winter.
- Passenger rail would have 8 round trips per day in summer and 6 round trips in winter.
- The travel time for bus was estimated at 2 hours and 10 minutes.
- For rail, travel time was estimated at 1 hour and 53 minutes.
Feasibility Study Routes and Stops
- For the bus scenarios, two routes were proposed:
- Route A would be an express route from Downtown Calgary, with intermediate stops at Crowfoot C-Train station and Canmore.
- Route B would be a local route, starting from Anderson C-Train station ending in Banff, with intermediate stops at the 69 Street SW C-Train station, Highway 1/Highway 22, Stoney Nation and Canmore.
- In the passenger rail scenarios, the following station stops were considered:
- Downtown Calgary East, adjacent to the planned Green Line C-Train stop at 9 Avenue SE and 4 Street SW
- Keith Yard, near the overpass of Stoney Trail NW along Bearspaw Dam Road NW
- Downtown Cochrane
- Canmore, near Elevation Place
- Banff Train Station
Full Report Content Includes:
- A feasibility level assessment of both a bus and passenger rail service between Calgary and the Bow Valley;
- An assessment of the existing and the additional infrastructure required to support a rail or bus service, including track, sidings, signals, stations, bus stops, shelters, park and ride facilities, rolling stock and bus fleet, maintenance yards/facilities and recommendations for other supporting transit enhancements;
- A high-level operations plan, including train configuration, run time for the route(s), service frequency, stop/station locations, options for ownership/management of operations, maintenance requirements;
- Review of the regulatory framework around implementation of both a bus and rail service;
- Forecasts for ridership under various operating scenarios and capture rate assumptions;
- Development of feasibility level estimates for the capital costs, potential revenue and operating costs for a potential service;
- A high-level implementation plan and schedule, identifying key next steps should the decision be made to proceed with either transit option.