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Study says it makes sense to have mass transit to Banff National Park from Calgary

BANFF, Alta. — A feasibility study says bus or passenger rail service between Calgary and Banff National Park would make sense, but the high price tag would need provincial and federal government help.

The study, which was released Wednesday, was commissioned by the towns of Banff, Canmore and Cochrane, the City of Calgary and a municipal district that includes Lake Louise.

“Road congestion in and around Banff National Park is increasing, leading to longer travel times, more greenhouse gas emissions, increased traffic on wildlife corridors and a reduced visitor experience,” said the report.

Mass transit was examined as a way to reduce the number of vehicles along the busy Trans-Canada Highway corridor and in the national park.

The study said the park has seen its visitation increase by an average of 2.6 per cent a year since 2007.

With nearly four million visitors arriving each year in private vehicles, there has been an increase in road congestion — particularly in the summer, officials said. It also pointed to other negative effects such as longer travel times, more greenhouse gas emissions and increased traffic in areas frequented by wildlife.

“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.”

The study looked at all-year bus and train options and came up with some approximate costs.

Bus service between Calgary and Lake Louise would have capital costs ranging from $8.1 million to $19.6 million and operating costs of $4.5 million to $5.8 million annually. A ridership between 200,000 and 490,000 passengers a year would cut the annual operating subsidy to about $2 million.

Train service would have a capital cost between $660 million to $680 million and an operating cost of $13.4 million to $14.3 million each year. Its ridership numbers would be expected to be between 200,000 and 620,000 passengers annually, which would reduce the annual operating subsidy to about $8.1 million to $9.1 million.

“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,” said the report.

The $350,000 study was paid for by Alberta Municipal Affairs and conducted by an independent contractor hired by the Town of Banff.