BANFF – As the world continues to be opening up following two years of restrictions, the expectation has been a flood of visitors will be visiting the Bow Valley, and Banff in particular this summer.
Traffic indicators have shown this to be true with the increase in visitors returning, the hope is traffic congestion can be limited as visitors in their vehicles arrive.
The Town of Banff had 113,466 vehicles during the long weekend, with Sunday being the busiest day as 31,526 vehicles came to the community.
“Sunday was the busiest day of the year, and we had a few hours with more than 700 vehicles per hour coming into town, which is a pretty big deal,” said Jason Darrah, communications director for the Town of Banff. “That happened on the May long weekend when we had up to 90 minutes of delays for people on the south side of the river.”
It was expected the 2022 August long weekend would reach close to pre-pandemic levels of traffic.
In the end, there was an eight per cent increase in traffic overall between July 29 and Aug. 1, when compared to 2021. The largest increase was on Aug. 1, with a 19 per cent increase. While numbers are up for traffic, it is still seven per cent below the pre-pandemic visitor numbers.
Despite the influx of traffic and visitors, delays in Banff did not exceed 10 minutes this past long weekend.
Prior to the weekend, visitors were encouraged to take Roam public transit and park in various lots and then walk into the community to relieve congestion.
“When you have a few hours of more than 700 vehicles coming into town, when it is already saturated, that is when some challenges happen,” Darrah said. “I think our measures seemed to work.”
Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno encouraged visitors to the mountain town to look at alternative ways to come to the townsite rather than by vehicle.
“The best way to experience the Town of Banff is out of a vehicle, so it is essential that more people use public transit to get here,” she said. “Those who need to drive to Banff, park as soon as possible in the large parking lots at the entrance to town and walk, bike, or hop on transit to get around.”
In 2021, entrance trackers in Banff counted 105,099 vehicles at both entrances to town during the August long weekend. Prior to the pandemic, the entrance counters logged 121,594 vehicles entering the community. Each of the days of the 2019 August long weekend exceeded the 24,000-vehicle per day threshold, causing traffic delays in the community.
On the Canada Day long weekend this year, traffic delays were at 10 minutes. There was a high of 28,200 vehicles per day on July 2, similar to the levels seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the May long weekend delays reached 90 minutes. This was a 175 per cent increase in traffic compared to the May long weekend in 2021, and 108 per cent more than the 2019 May long weekend.
Visitors who were going to the Sulphur Mountain Gondola or Hot Pools this year were told not to drive across the vehicle bridge on the southside as lots fill up quickly. These visitors were also encouraged to take transit, including the free gondola shuttle.
“Parks Canada sent us a text when they closed the parking lots up on the hill on Sulphur Mountain and are waving people down,” Darrah said. “We do a few extra things when that happens to prepare.”
One measure when the Sulphur Mountain lot is full is to put out temporary signs on the roadways on the way to the bridge, stating that the gondola and hot pools parking lots are full.
“This gives people one last chance to not go across, and to park and take the transit or the free shuttle.”
Another control measure was traffic overrides, which involves taking control of traffic lights. This was done 14 times on the weekend, which is higher than normal.
“What that does is you flush through all the traffic for three minutes going in one direction,” Darrah said.
With the increase in traffic and visitors, it is a sign of a rebound for the community after two pandemic years that have been hard on businesses.
“There are still some businesses that need some good weekends to recover and stay in a sustainable mode,” Darrah said. “We are happy with the increase in people, and we have lots of room for people in the Banff pedestrian zone and lots of trails in and around Banff. We just don’t have enough room for vehicles. We are happy with the influx of people.”
- July 29: 25,801
- July 30: 28,262
- July 31: 31,526
- Aug. 1: 27,877
- Total: 113,466
- July 30: 23,768
- July 31: 27,790
- Aug. 1: 30,053
- Aug. 2: 23.488
- Total: 105,099
- Aug. 2: 28,387
- Aug. 3: 30,793
- Aug. 4: 32,586
- Aug. 5: 29,828
- Total: 121,594
- Aug. 3: 28,040
- Aug. 4: 29,017
- Aug. 5: 32,423
- Aug. 6: 30,721
- Total: 120,201