A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Baker Creek, Alta. on Monday, December 1, 2014. A feasibility study released today says bus or passenger rail service between Calgary and Banff National Park would make sense. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn ORG XMIT: CPT139
A passenger rail link between Calgary and Banff National Park is “feasible,” according to a new study, though the federal and provincial governments would likely have to pick up part of the estimated $660-million price tag.The study — which was commissioned by the towns of Banff, Canmore and Cochrane, as well as the City of Calgary and Improvement District 9 — examined mass transit as a way to reduce vehicle congestion along the Bow Valley corridor and in the national park. In 2018, average daily vehicle volume on the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and Banff was more than 22,000 vehicles per day, with summer peak daily volumes above 45,000 vehicles per day.In Banff itself, travel time delays are common, said Mayor Karen Sorensen, and the ever-growing congestion also poses risks to wildlife, increases greenhouse gas production and erodes the visitor experience.“I would suggest that regional mass transit is a fairly obvious way to reduce the growing impacts,” Sorensen said. “I’m just really happy we now have this study. I would say we’re all very pleased learning that it’s feasible.”The study poses two potential options — a bus service that would run between 21 and 26 round trips per day, transporting between 200,000 to 490,000 passengers per year; and a passenger rail service that would run eight round trips per day and transport between 220,000 and 620,000 passengers per year.Related While the bus scenario is the most cost-effective (with capital costs of between $8.1 million and $19.6 million, according to the study, as opposed to $660 million to $690 million for rail), a rail link would move more people and be a bigger boost for tourism in the long run, said City of Calgary Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.“In a perfect world, if I could snap my fingers and make this happen, I would love the rail solution. Rail built this region — there’s something elegant about returning to it,” he said.According to the study, any form of mass transit in the Bow Valley region would be too expensive for the municipalities to shoulder alone, so provincial and federal funding would be required.Carra said from the City of Calgary’s perspective, the need for a Calgary-Banff mass transit link will need to be balanced with other transit priorities, including the continued build-out of the LRT system and the new MAX rapid transit bus lines.“But if we want to continue to cultivate our region as a world-class tourism region, this is something we have to do,” Carra said. “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”The bus service scenarios laid out in the study identify two different routes — an express route from downtown Calgary, with intermediate stops at Crowfoot CTrain Station and Canmore; and a local route, starting at Anderson CTrain station and ending in Banff with intermediate stops at the 69th Street S.W. CTrain station, Highway 1/Highway 22, Stoney Nation and Canmore.The passenger rail service would require construction of a new parallel track along the Canadian Pacific Railway right-of-way. The study identifies potential station stops in downtown Calgary, adjacent to the planned Green Line CTrain stop at 9th Avenue S.E. and 4th Street S.W.; at Keith Yard, near the overpass of Stoney Trail N.W. along Bearspaw Dam Road N.W.; and in Cochrane, Canmore and Banff.
Council approved Banff’s participation in a collaboration with Calgary, Cochrane, Canmore and Lake Louise towards the concept of reinstating passenger rail between Calgary and the Bow Valley on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (Daniel Katz/ Crag Canyon/ Postmedia Network)
Jan Waterous, who along with her husband, Adam, bought the long-term lease for the Banff train station four years ago, was encouraged by the report. The Waterous family — which also owns the Norquay ski resort — has been pushing to bring passenger rail service back to Banff National Park, and has been independently assembling an investor group that could put in the required capital to build the dedicated rail line, even perhaps including a link to the Calgary International Airport.“What we need, though, is support from the provincial government and other levels of government to actually run the rail service,” Waterous said. “So to see the enthusiasm and support and commitment from the municipalities at the announcement today was very exciting for my husband and I.”The study states fares for either a bus or rail link would need to be kept affordable, and estimates an adult fare should cost in the $10 to $15 email@example.comTwitter.com/AmandaMsteph