Banff National Park Net Zero 2035 stands on the shoulders of the Town of Banff’s initial steps developing mass transit in 2012, the progress made through public policy changes in 2019 and 2020, and a series of private investments. Banff is well positioned for transformational change.
Learn more about the momentum that is building.
Mass transit expands in Banff – 2010s
Public mass transit in Banff was first established in 1994 but it was not until 2012 that the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission took over the service and Roam Transit. This significantly expanded its routes and began service between Banff and Canmore. The Town of Banff has pioneered using Roam Transit as a key solution to address congestion in the townsite. Still, Roam Transit accounts for less than 10 percent of total visitor and resident trips in the Bow Valley.
Momentum for change in 2019, 2020
In 2019, two major developments created the building blocks for BANFF NATIONAL PARK NET ZERO 2035. First, in January 2019, Town Council led the way by adopting new policies including a new Banff Environmental Master Plan, which set community-wide goals of achieving 30 percent emissions reduction by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 relative to 2016 levels. Council also supported the Town of Banff Renewable Energy Transition Roadmap, a long-term technical blueprint to achieve the Environmental Master Plan. The Roadmap includes focusing on further developing mass transit, promoting a mode shift to transit among the general public and hospitality/tourism industries and a seamless integration of transit with car shares, bike shares, and active transportation. BANFF NATIONAL PARK NET ZERO 2035 is an acceleration of the goals in the Banff Environmental Master Plan.
Banff Train Station intercept parking lot
In August 2019, Liricon Capital built the town’s first intercept parking lot at the Banff Train Station. With 500 stalls, the lot was the first intercept lot ever built in Banff despite intercept parking being official Town policy since 1979. Liricon is providing the lot free of charge and in 2020 the train station lots now account for approximately 15 percent of downtown visitor parking.
Banff Pedestrian Zone
In 2020, further key components were put in place that created the possibility of BANFF NATIONAL PARK NET ZERO 2035. First, in May 2020, in response to the Covid-19 health pandemic, the Town of Banff created the Banff Pedestrian Zone by closing it to vehicle traffic in the 100 and 200 blocks of Banff Avenue to maintain social distancing. The Pedestrian Zone was enormously popular with visitors, with 97 percent wanting it to return in the summer of 2021, according to an August 2020 survey. The Pedestrian Zone also proved that visitors are prepared to change how they use their vehicles in the Park if they can enjoy a walking-friendly environment. The survey also showed 60 percent of visitors would walk to the Pedestrian Zone from the train station lots if Banff has paid parking and resident only parking pass on residential streets.
Calgary airport to Banff passenger train
In June 2020, the Province of Alberta and the Government of Canada announced their interest in the potential of creating a Calgary Airport to Banff Rail passenger service. Specifically, the Alberta Ministry of Transportation and the Canada Infrastructure Bank signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build on the work of a previous feasibility study, announced in February 2019, of creating a passenger rail service from downtown Calgary to Banff. The expanded study would focus on developing a service running on a new, dedicated track—ensuring on-time performance and allowing frequent departures—running parallel to the existing freight line within the CP Rail corridor. The service could include stops at the Calgary Airport, Downtown Calgary, Cochrane, Morley, Canmore and Banff. Stakeholders in the study include Calgary, Cochrane, Canmore, Banff, ID9, Liricon and CP Rail.
Banff National Park baseline transportation GHG study
In August 2020, The Transition Accelerator completed, as part of its series of GHG studies for Liricon (including Calgary Airport to Banff and Aerial Transit to Norquay), the first ever baseline GHG study for visitors and residents in Banff National Park. This study revealed that Banff, although the 6th most visited national park in North America, has 5 times the visitor transportation emissions footprint of any national park in North America. Banff has similar visitation and topographical layout as Zion National Park but has 63 times the per visitor transportation GHGs.
BANFF NATIONAL PARK NET ZERO 2035 Working Group
In September 2020, the BANFF NATIONAL PARK NET ZERO 2020 Working Group was formed to exchange and advance ideas about the initiative. The Working Group is comprised of key stakeholders and influencers from all three levels of government, the visitor economy, academic and research organizations needed to drive change to achieve net-zero by 2035. The Working Group will utilize “Best Practices Per Visitor” models and technology to create sustainable vehicle and visitor systems and low-carbon energy and waste solutions to transform Banff National Park into North America’s first net-zero emissions community.
Potential change to Town of Banff parking policies
In October 2020, the Town of Banff conducted a public engagement process to solicit feedback on the potential of paid parking in the downtown core and a resident-only parking pass on residential streets. Should the Town institute these parking changes, it could reduce the number of vehicles in the downtown core by 60 percent.
Commercialization of low-carbon technology
In the fall of 2020, there were several steps to commercialize low-carbon technology that can help achieve NET ZERO 2035.
Hydrogen economy: In the fall of 2020, developing the hydrogen economy is a priority for both the provincial and federal governments. In October, the Province of Alberta announced its hydrogen economy strategy. In particular, Alberta’s Natural Gas Vision and Strategy aims for “Large-scale hydrogen production with carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) and deployment in various commercial applications across the provincial economy by 2030.” Similarly, the federal government anticipates releasing a comprehensive hydrogen strategy in the fall of 2020, which signals the federal government’s intention to pursue hydrogen fuel as a key component of Canada’s goal to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050. Banff can serve as an early protype community for both a hydrogen-powered train and space heating.
Electric buses: In October 2020, the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) announced their investment program to finance public agencies to convert their diesel bus fleets to electric buses. Specifically, CIB is planning to invest $1.5 billion to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission buses and charging infrastructure. CIB is excited by the potential combination of investing in both passenger rail and electric buses for a shuttle only service to points of interest system in Banff National Park which could serve as a flagship, low carbon, integrated mass transit system.
Parks Canada policy changes
In August 2020, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change announced that “The Government of Canada is committed to providing Canadians with practical solutions to reduce emissions when they visit national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.” This was the first time the Federal Government announced it is seeking solutions to reduce visitor emissions in national parks and represents a major new policy initiative.
In November 2020, Parks Canada announced it is creating an expert panel to study the “the development of a long-term framework for the sustainable movement of visitors in the Bow Valley in Banff National Park.” The panel will “consider transportation modes and networks, as well as other strategies and tools relating to how people access, move about and use the park.”
Public pledge “Come Aboard 2035”
Banff, like a train parked for decades, is now firing up its engines. We welcome all Canadians to “Come Aboard Banff 2035” and help get Canada’s jewel moving down the tracks to be North America’s leading low carbon community.
We are not a think tank,
We are a do tank.