Ridership on the regional bus service launched between Calgary and Banff this summer has driven past expectations and officials are now considering extending operations through fall and winter.
"Right from the first day, the weekends have been steadily improving," said Ettore Iannacito, regional transportation program manager for the Calgary Regional Partnership.
Started in mid-June, the service runs each weekend and holiday and is scheduled to wrap up Sept. 4 — the Monday of the Labour Day long weekend — but that could change given its popularity, said Iannacito.
"The demand is there, definitely," he said. "We're going to be meeting with the stakeholders and our partners, which would be Parks Canada, the Town of Banff, the Town of Canmore and Calgary Regional Partnership, to talk about the success of the service and if we want to keep it and move forward with it.
"This is something we're definitely going to look at based on how successful it's been so far, just on the weekends."
The service shuttles riders between Calgary and Banff for a cost of $10 each way, or a $20 round trip.
The regional service actually starts in Okotoks and makes stops in Calgary (at the Somerset-Bridlewood and Crowfoot LRT stations), Cochrane (First Avenue), Canmore (Benchlands Trail), and Banff (at the train station and high school).
An express service also runs from the Crowfoot LRT in Calgary to the stops in Banff.
The first trip leaves Calgary at 5:49 a.m. from the Somerset-Bridlewood station (the express route starts at 10:45 a.m.) and the last bus back from Banff leaves the high school at 10:45 p.m. (the last express bus leaves at 6:15 p.m.).
Tickets can be bought online.
There have been a range of users thus far, said Iannacito.
"It's tourists, it's people from Calgary who want to do a quick trip out to Banff. In some cases it's employees who work in Banff, and we have quite a few people who actually use it from Banff to get to Calgary," he said.
"A lot of times it's employees as well who maybe aren't working that day and come to Calgary, spend the day then catch the last bus back to Banff. It's people from all over the world, pretty much."
The possible expansion was welcome news to those riding the bus during the Heritage Day long weekend.
"Oh my gosh, I think it's wonderful. It would be used a lot for sure," said Willa Dair, on a daytrip to the mountains from Calgary.
"I wouldn't mind coming out once a month for the whole year, or more."
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