Tourists and commuters in Banff and Canmore will be taking eco-friendly rides as zero-emission routes in the national park expand with more electric buses
Banff National Park is growing its fleet of electric buses with an extended partnership deal between local bus operator Roam Transit, the Alberta government and Parks Canada. This month the Bow Valley Region Transit Services Commission (BVRTSC) — Banff’s transit authority — announced it secured $12.9 million in funding over five years to allow Roam Transit to purchase six more Proterra electric buses for its fleet.
The first three electric buses were purchased by Roam in 2021. A second batch of three electric buses will be joining the fleet in time for the summer 2022 season. Another three electric buses are slated to go into service for Roam in summer 2023. Roam’s electric buses have a range of 350km per charge and the company expects the battery to have a 12 year lifetime.
“This agreement is a key milestone in Roam’s movement toward reducing emissions and further encouraging the use of public transit in the Bow Valley,” says Martin Bean, general manager of the BVRTSC in a press release.
Roam has a current total fleet size of 32 vehicles. There are three electric buses (soon to be six), three hybrid buses and the rest are internal combustion.
Roam’s company goal is to have 30 per cent (10 vehicles) to be electric by 2030. Much of the funding for the electric buses has been provided by Alberta’s Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTRIP).
Electric Autonomy Canada previously on Canada’s tour operators and tourism-reliant companies carving out identities for themselves by being early adopters of electric vehicles.
On average four million people visit Banff National Park and the town generates $3 billion in tourism revenue annually. Prior to COVID-19, Roam Transit had a ridership of 1.5 million people.
“I applaud Bow Valley Regional Transit’s ongoing commitment to safe and efficient travel for area residents and tourists. This investment will create new opportunities to visit the mountains, catch a ride to work, or meet up with family and friends,” said Rajan Sawhney, Alberta’s minister of transportation in the press release.
In 2021, when Roam purchased its first electric buses, it also built a $8.5 million, 27,000 square-foot Transit Operations & Training Centre. The building includes a driving simulator for the public, indoor parking for the entire Roam fleet and charging infrastructure.
In adopting electric vehicles, Roam is not only exposing millions of people to the experience of zero-emission transportation and alleviating traffic in an environmentally sensitive area, but also is also providing proof-of-engineering (the buses operate year-round in minus-30 temperatures, at times) and is benefiting as a company from 30 per cent savings in maintenance costs per bus, according to the transit service.
The new routes being services by the zero-emission vehicles this year will take travellers to Lake Minnewanka and Johnston Canyon. Commuters are also able to reach the Banff Gondola, Bow Falls, Banff Springs Hotel, Tunnel Mountain Campgrounds and downtown Banff by electric bus.
“Introducing electric buses for tourists to explore Banff National Park really brings home why we love parks in the first place – because we want to preserve and protect our beautiful natural environment,” said the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.