CONCEPT REPORT (EXT.)
I am writing this article in response to an article from the Rocky Mountain Outlook titled: “Propane Heaters Banned on Public Sidewalk Patios” by Cathy Ellis, published March 31, 2022. In this article it is mentioned that outdoor dining in Banff is a bit chilly during the shoulder seasons. Customers have asked for some warmth in the later part of the evening. Thoughts from the Town Council include electric blankets (which are hard to wash) and outdoor firepits (propane is banned and also kinda contradictory to the Town’s stated goal of being environmentally friendly). Rest assured, I have a solution – and this is one of my better ones.
It’s getting colder and the nights are getting longer. It’s a bit more uncomfortable to sit outside, especially late at night. You want to stay warm, but you also want to enjoy the stars. What to do? Well, my suggestion is to roll out the electric buses. These environmentally friendly vehicles have built in heaters and with just a few adjustments could be turned into a kind of outdoor patio or dining tent.
Each bus would need to be parked on the street outside the restaurants. In our little town, the streets are pedestrianized – meaning there is no vehicle traffic in the downtown core. This would have to remain in effect. Buses could have tires removed and be placed on blocks to prevent theft or joyriding if that is a concern in your district or town. Each bus could be labeled (a sign in the window would do) and rented to each restaurant. This would allow 2nd floor restaurants access to street seating. Each bus would also need some seats removed to allow space for tables, and reverse seating for about the remaining seats so that patrons could face each other while dining. I believe each bus could seat as many as 6 tables of 4 people (24 customers total) and of course each table and seat needs to be numbered. As for the view, there are two basic options: sunroof (modest) or windowless (better). The windowless bus would be like the futuristic airplane you’ve probably heard of which uses cameras to capture the image of the scenery outside. The inside of the bus would have to be converted to a giant t.v. screen to project the image captured by the cameras. In this way, customers could see what’s going on outside and enjoy an unobstructed view of the mountains. This would be ideal for scenic mountain resorts like Banff, Canmore, Aspen and Vail.
Another use for electric buses (or any buses, for that matter) is catering. Buses could make use of the alley way in Banff as an ad hoc drive-thru, allowing local restaurants to serve them take out, while the customers tour the town. This would likely be done through the restaurant’s in-store pickup system (app, website or both). And yes, that would be the likely use of this setup – tour guides taking customers throughout the park to highlight sights, attractions etc. Alternatively, tourists on their way to ski on the mountains could eat while traveling to the mountainside. For this particular use, the buses could have stow-away trays (just like airplanes) and use the same seat number system as airplanes. This idea can be adapted to any town or city, and be used for tours of local historical sites too.
Buses that are parked on the streets, as outdoor dining, could be rotated to allow for cleaning of tables and maximum customer turnover rates. This would require the wheels to be left on, of course. An area could be set up for detailing (“bussing”) at the convenience of the restaurants or whomever is in charge of cleaning the buses. This would allow restaurants to deprioritize cleaning the buses if they are short of staff, or very busy. If this is done off-site then the bus terminal could be used as the “bus” terminal (haha). The buses could be outfitted with garbage/recycling/food scrap bins or these could be installed at the bus terminal.
The bus terminal(s) could double as food courts since the buses are picking up customers anyway. This would allow customers to browse for food and then have it delivered to their bus and seat straight from the food court. This would largely depend on whether catering is done as walk-ins or pre-ordered. Speaking as someone who works at a restaurant, I would much prefer the tour company pre-order as they would with any other group. It is much easier to prepare the food when you are told of the arrival of a large group in advance.
- Buses can be parked in multiple locations and in the street, allowing them to service the maximum number of restaurants possible
- Use of bus terminals as a food court and catering location may increase investment in mass transit
- Another reason to go electric, as burning fossil fuels would increase pollution in the downtown core and decrease overall lung health
- Expansion of outdoor seating to year-round, all weather seating
- Expansion of group services possibly creating jobs or specialties within the restaurants
In lieu of buses, an 18 wheeler could be a substitute if it is modified to have heating in the trailer and seats and tables are added in too. I believe this is an unlikely scenario in most cases because the primary use of semis is cargo and they are limited in number. Most likely they would be reserved for shipping only.
The use of electric buses as outdoor dining may actually encourage the production and purchase of electric vehicles as it shows people are starting to find more creative uses for environmentally friendly vehicles. It may also be a boost economically, which may help tourist destinations in particular.
Phone: 403-497-WIND (9463)