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The addition of a fourth lane would require the sidewalks on the bridge to be narrowed on both sides from by one metre. This will negatively impact pedestrians and is contrary to council’s strategic priority of promoting sustainable modes of transportation. As well, a crash barrier between the sidewalk and driving lanes would likely be required with four driving lanes on the bridge leading to a further reduction in sidewalk width on a designated heritage structure. In the long term, traffic volumes are likely to increase beyond the capacity that fourth lane could provide.
Council considered a trial lane reversal in November 2014 to assess the efficiency of two northbound lanes. The trial was not approved because Council felt the limits of the Buffalo/Banff Avenue intersection would make the trial ineffective.
Building a parkade has been considered but is inconsistent with the findings of both the Transportation Master Plan and the Long Term Transportation Study (LTTS). Both studies assessed the capacity of the road network and recognized that road network capacity is exceeded for the peak summer months. Both studies recommend intercept parking outside downtown as a way reduce vehicle congestion by reducing unwanted trips of vehicles circulating to find parking (these trips account for approximately 20% of all vehicle trips during congested periods). A survey carried out as part of the LTTS indicated that 78% of respondents disagreed with the statement that “The future of transportation in Banff should involve building more road capacity to move more cars”; 74% of respondents to the survey agreed with the statement that “The future of transportation in Banff should be financially self-sufficient (pay for itself)”. Building a second downtown parkade would require road upgrades to access it and, without a source of revenue through user-pay parking, the parkade operation and associated debt-financing would be costly for tax payers.
A 500 stall intercept lot opened in September 2019 and is being monitored for occupancy levels; transit ridership continues to grow with further expansions to local and regional services planned for 2020 and beyond.
Moving towards a sustainable transportation future is enshrined in Council’s strategic priorities in the areas of both transportation and environment. Intercepting vehicles and improving alternatives to driving by improving trail quality and connectivity and enhancing public transit are key priorities in the Strategic Plan.
Rather than implementing a hard limit on motorists travelling over the Bow River Bridge, since 2014 Council and Administration have worked in collaboration with stakeholders and focused on promoting and investing in alternative transportation, with significant success:
• With increased service frequency Roam Transit local ridership over the Bow River Bridge has increased 47% from 374,695 in 2016 to 552,132 in 2018.• Pedestrian traffic over the Bow River (pedestrian and traffic bridges combined) has increased 53% from 571,159 to 872,542 crossings between 2015 and 2018.• Bicycle parking capacity in town has increased 55% from 550 in 2015 to over 850 in 2018, and usage has increased 42%.• Total annual vehicle volume over the Bow River Bridge decreased by 3.6% (173,548 vehicles) from 2017 to 2018.• Days with travel time delays greater than 15 minutes between Rimrock Resort Hotel and the Buffalo-Banff intersection have decreased from 15 in 2016 to 8 in 2018.
Additionally, a Central Park pedestrian crossing is under consideration subject to successful applications for both Federal and Provincial funding. The project would encourage active transportation among both residents and visitors, reducing the reliance on private vehicles to travel over the Bow River Bridge. The potential impact of a second pedestrian crossing in reducing congestion over the Bow River can be derived from the Muskrat Street pedestrian bridge usage statistics, which increased 64% (from 166,601 to 273,581 crossings) between July and August 2014 and 2018.
The increased efficiency associated with moving through the intersection for both pedestrians and motorists outweighs the increased delays. However, your wait is shorter than you think. Motorists are waiting an additional 30 seconds per cycle at most (compared to timings prior to the scramble operations) and pedestrians up to an extra 37 seconds per cycle. These wait times are reduced in the winter as the traffic signals operate with a shorter cycle length.
This timing meets the Canadian standard for calculating pedestrian clearance of 1.2 metres/second and is balanced to meet the needs of all users. A longer pedestrian crossing time would increase motorist delay or shorten green time for motorists. The timing tried to balance all intersection users.
Traffic signals at Banff’s intersections are synchronized to support travel down the main Banff Avenue corridor. On busy summer days, the northbound signal pattern is combined with green times specifically designed for high traffic volumes, with video detection cameras that support each direction. The cameras trigger a signal change if there is no traffic facing the current green light, and associate the extra, unused green time to the other movement. There is no point in time when the signals are not feeding traffic onto the bridge.
The RCMP advise that Banff’s intersections require two professionally trained traffic management officers (RCMP or Bylaw) for each intersection. This makes flagging expensive as well as ineffective at signalized intersections.