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Long-awaited expert panel releases recommendations on future of Bow Valley, Banff National Park travel

Mobility hubs, improving public transit and reducing private vehicle use are among the eight recommendations made by an expert panel on how to help people get and travel to the Bow Valley and Banff National Park.
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A Roam transit electric bus in Banff on Tuesday (June 21). JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

BANFF NATIONAL PARK – Mobility hubs, improving public transit, and reducing private vehicle use are among eight recommendations made by an expert panel on how to help people get around and travel to the Bow Valley and Banff National Park.

The Banff Bow Valley Sustainable People-Moving framework was released Monday (Dec. 5), outlining strategies and goals for the future of travel in the region. The objectives are to ultimately implement the strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), improve the ecological aspect of the park, and increase accessibility for visitors and residents.

“Our report is a result of these discussions and the collective expertise and experience of the panel,” said Bill Fisher, chair of the expert panel, in a media release. “Many of the suggested solutions are bold and may take some time to implement, others are fundamental to better understanding visitor behaviour and expectations.

“We hope our report can serve as a guide for how to move people sustainably in the busiest national park in Canada and perhaps become a model for other protected areas to consider.”

Parks Canada, who commissioned the expert panel and released the report, declined to make a spokesperson available to discuss the recommendations and that they are being reviewed and the federal agency will be doing its own internal study.

“We will not provide comments on specific strategies identified,” said Megan Hope, a Parks Canada media representative wrote in an email.

The recommendations are broken into three sections: arriving in Banff National Park, moving around the park, and enabling change. The report presents the existing travel modes and expands on how each recommendation could potentially achieve the goals of the region.

The report stresses the importance of reducing private vehicle use in achieving goals of reducing GHGs. While it notes expanding bus service from Kananaskis Country, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay national parks will be difficult and costly, it’s not impossible and would involve all three tiers of government.

“A staged approach that might involve first buses, dedicated bus lanes or options could test the viability of the system while utilizing the existing transportation infrastructure,” the report stated, adding Parks Canada was in the best position to “create and lead a discussion with partners.”

An emphasis on creating mobility hubs, where transit can connect with multi-modal forms of transit, was further pushed in the recommendations. The study states the Banff townsite and Lake Louise could be two such areas to have hubs, particularly in the area of Banff Avenue and Mount Norquay Road.

In improving public transit, the report notes there are several systems such as Roam, On It, private operators, and Parks Canada shuttles, which have all expanded, but “lack any concerted effort to collaborate and work together.”

The report adds public transit has yet to reach its full potential and the diversity has not yet been fully considered and that “there is no one solution for moving people around the park, but rather a variety of options based on their needs. User needs should always dictate the actual mode of transportation chosen for any given area.”

Creating, improving and encouraging active transit, while also bringing a more unified public transit system are recommended as “there is a need for a singular system for transportation, booking and associated user and visitor experiences.”

Expert Advisory Panel on Moving People Sustainably in the Banff Bow Valley by Greg on Scribd

In addition to bringing all stakeholders to the table, prioritizing Indigenous partnerships, and better understanding how people travel into the national parks, the report highlights the need to use pricing as a way to influence people’s behaviours and change them.

Concepts such as increasing parking costs, different fees for the way a person enters the national park and rewarding people who plan in advance are explored as potential options to have people shift to public transit.

“The current pricing system in Parks Canada does not properly reflect operating costs nor does it incentivize desired action,” the report states.

“Pricing should make public transit more attractive and personal vehicle use less so.”

The expert panel was created in late 2020 to make recommendations for a framework on how people will get around the Bow Valley and Banff National Park.

The panel examined best practices and technologies used from around the world through in-person and virtual meetings between June 2021 and June 2022. It also received written submissions, engaged Indigenous communities and video presentations as well as comments from the public consultation of the Banff National Park draft management plan.

The nine-member panel was tasked with looking beyond traditional transit modes and looking at concepts such as paid parking, access restrictions and reservation systems.

In the past decade, vehicle traffic to Banff National Park has grown by approximately 30 per cent, with the roads to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake seeing significant increases. Roughly 8.3 million vehicles travel through the national park each year, with an estimated half stopping in the park.

In Lake Louise, traffic volume has jumped by 71 per cent in the last decade, leading to significant congestion issues for people visiting the famous Alberta lake and nearby Moraine Lake.

Parks Canada has implemented shuttle systems to both popular areas and limit vehicle traffic to Moraine Lake.

The panel’s report emphasizes the existing models of travel in the national park “are not effective to meet the full needs of park visitors and achieve resource protection goals.”

The recommendation from the panel are subject to environmental review, receiving additional feedback from Indigenous peoples, the public and Parks Canada’s partners for feedback.

In Banff and Canmore, paid parking has already been established in attempts to push people out of vehicles and use more active modes of transportation.

The region has put significant resources into growing Roam transit, which has led to fare-free transit in Canmore for all riders and for Banff residents in the Banff townsite, while growing path networks to promote pedestrian, cycling and e-bike travel.

However, this past year saw visitation return to pre-COVID-19 levels and significant delays took place for vehicle traffic, particularly across the Bow River Bridge for people travelling to and from the gondola and Upper Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain.

Banff and Lake Louise Tourism, the Town of Banff and Parks Canada are working on a tourism master plan, which is aiming to look at the community well-being, the environment and economic prosperity.

A first look at the 10-year plan occurred in November and outlined enhanced transportation to be an important piece of the puzzle.

The panel’s recommendations emphasize how additional research on all points will need to take place, but that a visitor use management framework has already been set up in the United States bringing multiple agencies together.

“From planning through to execution, providing high-quality and inclusive experiences, it is essential to understand what contributes to a ‘high quality visit’ for a diversity of people,” the report states.

The intent for the list of recommendations and feedback will be considered for future management plans, ecosystem science, direction and guidance. Ultimately, the report outlines how “the greatest challenge in implementing many of the recommendations in this report involves changing the behaviour of visitors, stakeholders, residents and staff of Parks Canada itself.”

The public engagement process is until Feb. 5. To give feedback, people can visit

“The report builds on Parks Canada’s efforts towards identifying potential future and practical measures to address the long-standing need and desire to improve the movement of people in Banff National Park,” said Ron Hallman, president and CEO of Parks Canada, in a media release. “I am confident that their work – together with planned further engagement with and involvement from Indigenous partners, the public and stakeholders – will inform future decision-making aimed at making positive changes to the way that people access and move through the Bow Valley in Banff National Park.”



  • Reducing private vehicle arrivals
    • Increase parking fees to make public transit an affordable option.
    • Expand transit options locally, but also to get people from Calgary to Banff National Park.
    • Communicate the convenience of public transit and GHG reduction.
    • Consider options such as dedicated vehicle lanes for carpooling.
    • Have ongoing public engagement.
    • Look at partnerships with private operators to expand service.
  • Creating mobility hubs
    • Establish a vision for hubs on what they should look like.
    • Develop a hub in the Banff townsite and another in Lake Louise, with any potential rail connection likely needing another hub.
    • Make infrastructure improvements to help mobility options.
    • Expand access to make it easy to get from one hub to another.
    • Have first and last kilometre connections to create better access.


  • Improving and diversifying public transit options
    • Communicating public transit as the best viable option since private vehicle aren’t long-term sustainable.
    • Eliminate some parking to have vehicle access restricted to a transit hub or intercept parking.
    • Be open to exploring new forms of transit such as aerial transit like gondolas, on-demand shuttles and autonomous vehicles.
    • Expanding services and using long-term research to implement decision-making.
    • Have more coordinated transit services such as a singular system for booking transit.
    • Expand the 5G network to have better cellular connection.
  • Developing and encouraging active transit
    • Complete a review of Banff National Park facilities where accessibility improvements can be made.
    • Expanding infrastructure that helps active transit.
    • Communicating the active mode options to better inform people.
    • Look at how active transit can work year round in all seasons.
  • Creating a comprehensive and unified transit service
    • Create a vision and partnerships for a new unified agency.
    • Create a new and unified transit agency or modify the existing Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission.
    • Build new centralized digital tools to serve residents and visitors.
    • Bring all stakeholders to the table to have a unified plan and goals for public transit.


  • Developing partnerships with stakeholders and Indigenous peoples
    • Work with third-party providers to create transit partnerships.
    • Explore the range of Indigenous partnerships.
  • Using pricing as a tool to influence behaviour
    • Examine current policies and legislation on pricing.
    • Better reflect the costs associated with pricing such as a person coming via public transit paying less than someone in a personal vehicle.
    • Prioritize and reward people who plan in advance.
    • Use advanced technology for pricing such as licence plate readers and mobile apps.
    • Partner with the private sector for looking at a new pass system.
  • Better understanding visitor experience and transit use
    • Review existing data sources on how information is collected and develop a strategy to assist in long-term planning.
    • Look at potential partnerships to have data sharing agreements.
    • Explore new ways to collect data to help decision-making.
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