Parking is already at a premium in Banff, especially during the summer, but a new pilot project will soon hit locals and residents alike where it hurts — their wallets.

Along with its mountain views and shopping, Banff has also been known for free parking. But being able to find an open parking spot has become more of a challenge as the town grows in size and popularity and now, town officials say they are going to start charging people to park as part of a three-month experiment with the goal of reducing congestion downtown.

"We did a transportation master plan that studied both traffic flow and parking challenges in the town, and part of the parking issue of course ties to the congestion issue," said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen. "We know there are people driving in circles for extended periods of time, looking for parking."

Canine tourist in Banff

Traffic congestion and parking are big issues for Banff and the town is introducing a paid parking pilot project to try and solve the problem. (Carla Beynon/CBC)

For three months, people parking in any of the town's five most popular parking lots will have to pay about $2 per hour.

While that might seem reasonable to people from the big cities — where parking can cost twice as much for half the time — locals say the change will be damaging in the long run.

"Many of my tenants come to see us and said that they have numerous amounts of customers saying they'll never come back if they have to pay for parking in Banff," said Ossie Treutler, a local business owner.

Town officials say the goal is to deter locals from driving and parking in the downtown core.

Residents say they haven't been consulted on the decision and are now starting a petition to fight the project.

Sorensen says the town will wait to decide what to do for the long term after the trial period ends on October 31.