A pilot project to offer weekend and holiday transit bus service between Calgary and Banff is expected to start running on June 17 and continue through the Labour Day weekend, officials with the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) confirmed.
One way fares will cost $10 per person, and further discounts still to be determined will be available for families.
The new 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.
The CRP’s transportation program manager said early response to the pilot project has been very positive.
“I think it’s far surpassed anything I ever expected,” Ettorre Iannacito said.
“I think as it gets closer to launch that it’s going to get even better. I think it’s going to be successful and people will use it like crazy.”
The three 55-seat coaches will provide approximately 13 round trips a day, between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Getting more people onto transit would also reduce parking challenges in the mountain community, officials with the CRP said.
It would also allow visitors the freedom to enjoy alcoholic beverages at Banff restaurants and bars, then catch a safe ride back to Calgary instead of getting behind the wheel.
The total cost of the pilot project is still to be determined.
The service is a collaboration between Parks Canada, the CRP, the City of Calgary and the Towns of Banff, Okotoks, Cochrane and Canmore, which are expected to share costs not covered by fare revenues.
Express buses will run between Crowfoot LRT station in Calgary and the Heritage Railway Station in Banff, where they connect with mountain community’s Roam transit service and free Parks Canada shuttles which will transport visitors to Lake Louise and Lake Minnewanka throughout the summer.
Approximately two morning runs and three evening runs would also stop in Okotoks, and in Cochrane and Canmore, with at least one stop in the morning and afternoon at Somerset-Bridlewood LRT Station.
The coaches have on-board washrooms and storage, as well as an exterior storage compartment for gear or luggage.
On weekdays, they are already used to transport commuters from Okotoks to southwest Calgary, as part of the Calgary Regional Partnership’s On-It Regional Transit Service, but are not currently in use on weekends and holidays.
The CRP is working to make tickets available through retail outlets and at municipal offices in Banff, Canmore and Cochrane.
“There is a good likelihood they will also be available online, but we are still working on all those details,” Iannacito said. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us.”