The Town of Banff is set to kick off public engagement to help develop a parking management plan that will address the ongoing issues around parking and congestion in downtown Banff.
“Traffic congestion and the impact of having 4 million visitors each year – with many driving around Banff looking for parking – continues to affect us all,” said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen. “Currently, we don’t have a visitor problem, but we do have a vehicle problem, and as the number of visitors is expected to continue to rise, we need to find a solution that improves access to our downtown while protecting residential parking spaces.”
The Town of Banff has a permanent land area of less than 4 square kilometres. Its arterial roads were over capacity for every day in July and August in 2019, resulting in delays and traffic congestion. Traffic studies show about 30% of the traffic in urban centres can be caused by drivers circling downtown looking for parking spaces.
The congestion and parking situation downtown has been an issue for years. In the past, residents have expressed concerns about paid parking downtown, which include the financial costs and the spillover of visitor parking onto residential streets. Since the last time residents were asked about paid parking, the Town has increased coverage of the Roam Public Transit system, enhanced pedestrian and bicycle networks, added a proposal for protecting resident parking, and opened a 500-stall intercept parking lot at the Train Station.
Residents, visitors and stakeholders will be asked to provide feedback on a preliminary proposal that would implement user-pay parking in the downtown, maintain free parking on the periphery of downtown, and add a resident parking permit system to protect spaces in front of homes.
“We know residents want and need to be engaged every step of the way on this issue, so we are providing many different avenues for people to be involved,” said Sorensen. “We want a good community conversation, not a fast decision, and we are committed to developing and implementing a solution that works for Banff.”
The two-phase engagement program to develop a Parking Management Plan will get underway next week. Topics for input in Phase 1 include questions like, should parking management strategies be seasonal, year-round, or only during certain times of the day? Should there be a free period before parking charges apply, or free parking for residents? Should user-paid parking revenues be used to pay for a residential permit parking system, be returned to residents to keep taxes down, or used for something else?
“The reality is free parking downtown is not free,” said Adrian Field, Director of Engineering for the Town of Banff. “While millions of visitors and commuters park for free in Banff, the cost of road maintenance, curb repair, lane markings and snow control for those 1,600 parking spaces is paid for by Banff taxpayers, including the 50% of Banff residents who choose to walk and cycle to work. That amounts to more than $260,000 each year, or the equivalent of a 1% property tax increase, and that doesn’t include the cost for infrastructure replacement or parking enforcement. But the real cost is the time lost while people drive around looking for parking, while polluting the mountain air. It is really easy to get around our small town without a vehicle.”
Public engagement opportunities in this phase will include in-person surveys, public drop-in sessions at Cascade Shops on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, online engagement activities, stakeholder meetings and a public workshop in January.
Details on dates, times and locations for these activities can be found at BanffViewpoints.ca/parking. Through the website you can also register for email updates and ongoing participation in the parking project and other issues. People without internet access can call 403.762.1200 or visit Banff Town Hall for information.