For immediate release: January 4, 2022
MISSOULA – Mountain Line has reached a major milestone toward its goal of a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035, announcing this month that 40% of its fixed-route bus fleet is now battery electric. This announcement comes as part of the agency’s celebration of Clean Air Month, observed in January.
Transportation – including cars, buses, trucks, trains and planes – is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the Missoula Valley, according to a 2017 study. Choosing alternate modes of transportation, like walking, biking, or taking the bus, is one of the best ways Missoulians can lower their personal carbon footprint and help improve local air quality.
“While public transportation is already part of the solution, we’re taking it a step further by making our fleet more sustainable,” said Mountain Line CEO and General Manager, Corey Aldridge. “Mountain Line has been an early adopter of battery-electric bus technology in the United States, which further lowers our tailpipe emissions to help keep our valley air clean and community healthy.”
Mountain Line first introduced battery-electric buses in 2019, starting with a six-bus pilot project funded by the Federal Transit Administration’s Low-or-No Emissions grant program. After a successful trial, the agency secured additional grant funding to introduce six more electric buses into the fleet over the past five months. This brings the agency’s total to 12 battery-electric out of 29 fixed-route buses.
“We’ve learned a lot about operating an electric fleet in Montana, from weather’s impact on battery life to high-voltage mechanics,” said Aldridge. “Through our lessons learned, we’ve found a viable way forward and have become a resource for agencies across the nation ready to make a similar transition.”
Mountain Line was recognized for its accomplishments last year by the American Public Transportation Association, earning the distinction of 2021 Outstanding Public Transportation System in North America in its size. A significant factor in receiving this award was the agency’s rapid transition to electric.
“We are moving more quickly than I could have predicted toward our goal of a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035,” said Aldridge. “This success is due in large part to strong community support from our riders, the voters, Montana’s senators, and our Zero-Fare Partners.”
Mountain Line must compete for grant funding to purchase each electric bus. The agency is more competitive for funding when able to demonstrate strong community support. A combination of overwhelming voter approval for expanded service during the 2020 election, support from Montana’s Senators, and strong Zero-Fare Partnerships helped the agency secure a third Low-or-No Emissions grant from the FTA in 2021, allowing it to purchase four additional electric buses set to be ordered next year.
Mountain Line’s 26 Zero-Fare Partners can be viewed in a series of clean-air banners on the Beartracks Bridge this month. The agency also plans to debut a short, informational video series about its electric buses on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube in the coming weeks.
Mountain Line was named the top public transit agency in North America in its size in 2021, earning the American Public Transportation Association Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award. The agency also won the Montana Transit Association statewide safety award in 2021. Committed to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035, Mountain Line has a long-standing commitment to clean air, public health and a more sustainable future. Since becoming a zero-fare system in 2015, ridership has increased nearly 70 percent. During normal times, Mountain Line provides more than 1.5 million rides annually, helping students get to school, employees get to work, and seniors and those living with disabilities stay active, mobile and independent. By reducing the number of single vehicles on the road, lessening traffic congestion and investing in electric buses, Mountain Line benefits us all.