It may be quiet and slow, but there is a revolution occurring when it comes to our transportation systems locally, regionally and nationally.
Right here in Canmore and Banff we are at ground zero for a systemic change for how people are moved from one place to another and away from a focus entirely on the private vehicle.
The North American gold standard of the private automobile as the best and preferred way of travel is losing ground. While there will always be those who drive a car or truck and there should always be adequate infrastrcture to handle traffic flows and parking, there is a shift toward transit as an option to create a different future with more transportation options.
The Bow Valley used to have better options, with passenger rail and then bus service. Over time, however, both have all but disappeared on a regional basis.
Roam transit demonstrates how local transit can be successful, but what is really missing in the equation is a mass transit option that services locals as well as the millions of visitors who come to the Rocky Mountains each year.
This week, the results of a $350,000 feasibility study into mass transit between Banff and Calgary were released and there is hope it may lead to change.
Whether or not you support the idea of spending large quantities of public dollars on high-speed rail or a bus-based mass transit, if you live in Canmore and Banff you are familiar with the issues each community faces with traffic and congestion during busy days.
In the 1880s when the framework of our streets and roads were marked out near a CP Rail siding in both communities, they weren’t designed with the intention of being able to handle the capacity of millions of visitors each year.
Our local transportation systems weren’t designed for the reality that exists on long weekends in the summer or at Christmas time – our popularity as a destination is also a burden. This is an issue and as leaders look at possible solutions it is clear that mass transit including high-speed rail is firmly on the table.
But if mass transit in the Bow Valley is going to actually happen it needs to take a number of factors into account in order to be successful.
First of all, it needs to include every single community along which it travels – that means places like Morley, Exshaw and Lake Louise must be stops along the rail or bus line. This type of infrastructure is not just for visitors – increased transportation options for residents can improve quality of life with easy access to resources and facilities in neighbouring communities.
Secondly, it needs to be combined with parking solutions in both Canmore and Banff. The latter has parking at the train station currently under construction, potential future development of a gondola and more parking by Liricon, the Banff-based company pushing for high-speed rail as the preferred option.
But Canmore, unfortunately, does not have a clearly defined intercept parking option that could be used in conjunction with high-speed rail, or mass transit.
Thirdly, it should not be a financial burden to local taxpayers. As tourism-based communities we already subsidize the visitor economy in this province without any support from higher levels of government to provide the scale and variety of municipal services and infrastructure needed to welcome millions of people to the Rocky Mountains each year.
From parking, streets and roads, signage, snow removal, human wildlife conflict resources – the list goes on.
Finally, its time for a champion at a higher level to step forward to support mass-transit as a solution to local traffic congestion issues and a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to travel.
This project needs a victor to take up the charge and drive momentum and support.
Maybe then the valley can be on track for a better and not just different transportation future.