A Sustainable Vision for Movement

What is the Banff Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan?

The Town of Banff is located in Canada’s oldest, and arguably most beloved National Park, and it’s considering some pretty big changes to the townsite in the form of an Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP). The new ARP — called the Banff Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan (BRARP) — features a not insignificant 17.4 hectares of redevelopment in the “Railway Lands” site, which contains the historic Banff train station and associated grounds.

Unfortunately, in its current form, the ARP is short-sighted and unsustainable — offering few benefits to the public and damaging sensitive ecosystems, including both Critical Habitat and key wildlife corridors. Now that the ARP is on its way to a second reading, however, there's an opportunity to create a vision for a multi-modal transit hub that showcases the community's strong environmental values at the entrance of the National Park.


we can create a community-driven vision

Let's be collaborative, for Banff

Our National Parks are public lands that belong to all of us. Alongside Parks Canada, we can steward a sustainable future for them, if we make choices that prioritize their ecological integrity — and not the private profits of a single company. The Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan is an exciting opportunity to help the Town of Banff, and the National Park, flourish. How? By crafting an ARP that allows for:

Broader Ecological Consideration

Active, Accessible, and Affordable Public Transit

Near-Term Multi-Modal Transit Hub



Focused on Community

We know it isn't simple, but it is possible

Tackling perennial problems like traffic congestion in a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site that receives over 4 million visitors each year is a daunting task — and both the Town of Banff and Parks Canada have their work cut out for them, but have done an admirable job of implementing near-term options.

However, developing a comprehensive plan to improve public transportation — while addressing visitor impacts, and safeguarding the ecological integrity of the natural environment — is not a process that can be rushed. Its crucial not to delay strategic interim transit that can contribute to a broader, overarching vision; but, we cannot put the National Park ecosystem on the chopping block as we develop those bigger picture, long-term solutions.

And the BRARP can be a solution. The Railway Lands have the potential to become a multi-modal transportation hub that benefits residents and visitors, both human and wildlife.

Envisioning a plan for the Railway Lands necessitates balancing the current context at the same time as ensuring we remain adaptable and flexible, especially when Parks Canada is currently in the process of collecting data and designing a longer-term strategy for moving people sustainably in Banff National Park. Let's lay the groundwork for sustainable near-term solutions, and continue to engage with Parks Canada on this strategy, before committing to design and planning for large-scale infrastructure development that may not align with what Parks Canada deems appropriate for the Town and Park.

After reviewing both the aspirations and concerns voiced by stakeholders within the public engagement process, we've put together an alternative vision for the BRARP to emphasize the tremendous opportunity it holds.

Our Vision for the Banff Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan

Aspirational, Collaborative, and Sustainable


Broader Ecological Consideration

Creating a functional, welcoming transportation hub for Banff shouldn't necessitate further degradation of the Bow Valley's montane ecosystem — nor should it necessitate further encroachment into wildlife corridors that are integral to the National Park.

What's needed:

  • Focus development away from the north side of the Railway tracks and associated wildlife movement zones;
  • Incorporate timely preservation and restoration of affected and adjacent ecosystems — not just to offset the development, but as an important part of ongoing Town and Park maintenance;
    • Ensure financially feasible restoration is a mandated component of future development proposals;
  • Avoid further habitat fragmentation within the ARP lands and other lands adjacent to the townsite, with more concentrated and strategic area redevelopment;
  • Complete montane wetland restoration;
  • Incorporate planning and design solutions that recognize and address the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Active, Accessible, and Affordable Public Transit 

Any transportation hub must put the public good ahead of private interests, and ensure the mandated prioritization of ecological integrity is upheld. As it stands, however, fee structures and parking associated with the ARP hinge on an irresponsible gondola proposal extending well beyond the boundaries of the site and up Mount Norquay — a proposal which Parks Canada has turned down. Revitalizing public space should not require furthering a private developer's personal interests while compromising the social and environmental interests of the community.

What's needed:

  • Prioritize infrastructure that offers affordable, accessible options — including buses, active modes of transit, with the potential for intercept parking at a reasonable scale;
  • Improve traffic management with a focus on keeping the public safe amidst the likely increase in vehicle congestion to, from, and around the site, as well as surrounding attractions like Mount Norquay;
  • Expand the capacity of the site for existing services, such as buses.

Near-Term Multi-Modal Transit Hub

The BRARP is an opportunity to increase public access to evidence-based transit options that are feasible in the near-future. Augmenting the site's capacity to service buses could support shuttles, including those from Calgary to Banff, and welcome visitors into the community without significant — and potentially environmentally deleterious — infrastructure requirements.

Future Thinking

While there's no question that addressing vehicle congestion in the Town of Banff is an urgent concern, there's plenty of room for near-term solutions that don't risk the ecological integrity of the National Park — nor the ability of future generations to enjoy its beauty. On the other hand, there's less room for committing limited space (and resources) for large-scale projects, such as a gondola terminus, and an additional parking lot, that do not align with the National Parks Act, nor with future sustainable movement strategies.

What's needed:

  • Focus on what we can do now, while planning for and protecting the Park's future;
  • Ask strategic questions of both the Town and the project proponent, such as "Is this the right place for an amphitheatre and commercial space, in addition to a sizable transportation hub?"
  • Hold decision-makers accountable to evidence-based planning and development — especially when it comes to the considerable lack of research to justify a terminus for a passenger rail line at this site; have other options been thoroughly explored? How do we know such a terminus will align with forthcoming sustainable movement strategies prior to their development?

Focused on Community

We've seen one vision for the Railway Lands, but there are countless alternatives — alternatives shaped by the interests and desires of the community, as opposed to just one company. Let's come together to craft a clear vision that focuses on providing a welcoming space for residents to use, while also connecting with visitors who want to appreciate both the Town and the National Park.

What's needed:

  • Clean-up the Railway Lands site;
  • Include accurate and meaningful commemoration and representation of Indigenous Peoples and culture, as directed by feedback provided by Treaty 7 Nations;
  • Beautify and improve existing assets (what's already there), instead of pushing new commercial development that exceeds the mandated threshold;
  • Showcase a community-driven vision for a National Park municipality that's committed to maintaining its ecological integrity, natural beauty, history, and culture.. 



We need a community-driven vision for Banff

Let's envision a more aspirational, collaborative, and sustainable use of the creative, collaborative use of the Railway Lands — together.

Suggestions from the Public

“Reclamation prior to development.”

“Preserve a narrow corridor with original forest/growth on the north side of the tracks to allow animals to move along the railway in their habitat.”

“Follow Fire Smart guidelines and refer to them in the ARP to ensure that the project is designed to reduce the risk of wildfires.” 

“Reduce commercial development.”

“Inclusion of Indigenous culture and authentic representation.”

“[Include] Selective fencing, or other innovative solutions to enhance wildlife movement and prevent human access.”

“Implementing a reservation system, limiting visitor numbers, enhancing transit, or constructing multi-story parking facilities.”

“Commercial developed not around historical buildings (detracts from their significance).”

Safer pedestrian crossing options over the train tracks and busy roads (e.g., pedestrian overpasses).”

Improved walkways, active transportation options, and connectivity to existing facilities like the Fenlands parking lot.”

Better access for those with disabilities.”

“Reducing the size of the parking lots, or reconsidering their locations.”

[Prevent] Wildlife habitat and corridor disruption.

Public transit, not private.

“Clear plans for interpretive signs and exhibits to enhance understanding of the area's history and significance.”

“Protected and separated pedestrian access.”

“Managed by the Town of Banff or Parks Canada, and not a private entity.”

“Focus on local needs, rather than tourism [and increased visitation].”