Free Edmonton to Elk Island shuttle to start July 28

A trip to Elk Island National Park isn't far from Edmonton for most people — unless you don't have a car. But a new free bus service coming to Edmonton will make the trip easier.

Parkbus has operated successful free shuttles since 2010 in Ontario and B.C.

Parkbus is launching a shuttle service to help Edmontonians without vehicles get to Elk Island National Park to see the bison. (Elk Island National Park/Parks Canada)

A trip to Elk Island National Park isn't far from Edmonton for most people — unless you don't have a car.

But a bus service that has made Algonquin National Park accessible for Toronto urbanites, and Golden Ears Provincial Park a feasible day trip for Vancouverites, is coming to Edmonton.

Parkbus will launch a free service between Edmonton and Elk Island National Park on July 28. The pilot project will run Saturdays until Sept. 15.

The park, popular with hikers and wildlife watchers, is 50 kilometres east of downtown Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway.

"We want to see what the initial response will be," Parkbus co-founder Boris Issaev said Friday.

"We are aware Edmonton is a smaller city than Toronto and Vancouver, there's less people that live in the city without a car," Issaev said. "We just have to figure out what the response will be and make our projections based on that."

Shuttles will depart for Elk Island each Saturday morning from the Mountain Equipment Co-op store at 11904 104th Ave.

Buses will return to the same location in the afternoon. One-way travel time will be about one hour.

More information, including an online reservation form, is available here.

Issaev and a friend started Parkbus in Toronto eight years ago.

Issaev had grown up in there without a car. As a young adult, he discovered nature destinations that weren't that far from his doorstep — but he needed a car to get there.

The service has since become popular in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Parkbus partners with Parks Canada and other organizations.

The Edmonton to Elk Island service will be run in partnership with Parks Canada, TD Bank and MEC.

"Even a lot of drivers would prefer to take a shuttle as opposed to getting behind their car and driving," said Issaev.