A new weekend and holiday public transit service between Calgary and Banff, with stops in Okotoks, Cochrane and possibly Canmore, will get rolling some time this June.
The Calgary Regional Partnership, Parks Canada, and several municipalities involved in the pilot project are still working out details, including fares and exactly when the coaches will start running this spring.
The service is meant to ease high-traffic congestion expected this summer, both on the Trans-Canada Highway and in Banff, as visitors take advantage of free park passes offered as part of Canada 150 celebrations.
Getting people onto transit would also reduce parking challenges in the mountain community, officials with the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) said.
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It would also allow passengers the freedom to enjoy alcoholic beverages while visiting Banff establishments, then catch a ride back to the city safely instead of getting behind the wheel.
At least three buses would run on summer weekends and holidays until September, with stops at the Somerset-Bridlewood and Crowfoot LRT stations in Calgary for express service to the town of Banff and possibly Canmore as well.
Routes would originate in Okotoks, where the coaches are parked overnight.
Some trips could pick up passengers in Cochrane as well.
The plan is for buses to run beginning early in the mornings and again in the evenings.
Rides will be first come, first serve and extra buses would be added to meet demand if necessary.
Costs are being shared by the stakeholders to keep fares “affordable,” according to Colleen Shepherd, executive director of the CRP.
In an effort to make the service attractive to families, officials are also considering offering significantly reduced children’s fares, Shepherd said.
The coaches have comfortable seating and washrooms on board.
The service is an expansion of the On-It Regional Transit Service which already provides commuter transportation between Okotoks and southwest Calgary.