FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 15, 2022
MISSOULA – Mayor John Engen proclaimed March 18, 2022, as Transit Operator Appreciation Day during City Council Monday night.
The proclamation honors Mountain Line and UDASH bus operators for their vital role in building a healthy, vibrant community by helping Missoulians and University of Montana students get to work, school, medical appointments, and other important locations.
“Public transit operators help to build our community by knowing their passengers, celebrating their successes, aiding in times of crisis and greeting them every day with friendly faces,” City Council President, Gwen Jones, read from the proclamation Monday night on behalf of the mayor.
Mountain Line CEO and General Manager Corey Aldridge recognized that this week marks the two-year anniversary of when many Missoula residents were packing up their offices to shelter at home. He acknowledged that it has been a trying two years of operations, from navigating the pandemic and staffing shortages, to living in a politically-charged time.
“Now is the time, more than ever, to lean into renewing the strength of our community,” said Aldridge. “I have so much pride in our team and am continually inspired by how much our employees truly care about their riders and all Missoulians. I’m grateful to Mayor Engen for showing our team that our community cares about them in turn.”
Jordan Hess, director of transportation at the University of Montana, which oversees UDASH service to UM, said the proclamation was an important and meaningful way to honor the frontline service provided by bus operators in both normal and challenging times.
“Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for students. During this time, transit operators never stopped working, making it possible for students to travel between class, work, home, shopping, and recreation, safely and efficiently,” Hess said. “For many students, UDASH and Mountain Line made it possible for them to continue their education throughout a very challenging time.”
While ridership fell significantly during the pandemic for both agencies as workers telecommuted, students transitioned to online learning, and non-essential travel was discouraged, bus operators continued to serve thousands of people each week. And ridership has continued to rise over the months.
“We continue the journey to full recovery from the pandemic, and we have seen ridership across both systems steadily increase over the past year,” said Hess. “Public transportation will continue to play a critical role in Missoula’s mobility landscape.”
Aldridge agreed, stating that access to reliable public transportation will be key in moving Missoula forward toward a more equitable, sustainable future.
“Zero-fare public transportation helps make Missoula more livable and vibrant,” Aldridge said. “However, none of these benefits to our community would be possible without the hardworking individuals at Mountain Line and UDASH, who show up each day to provide that service.”
To honor Missoula’s Transit Bus Operators, members of the public are invited to share their gratitude by visiting mountainline.com/thanks-operations-team or by engaging with either agency on social media:
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.
The Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM) provide services to enhance the student experience, advocate for the rights of all University of Montana (UM) students as a unified body and build a system of trust and transparency among students, faculty and staff. ASUM’s Office of Transportation operates the UDASH transit system—one of the only student-run public transportation systems in the country. Through student government and employment opportunities, ASUM helps train the next generation of transit professionals.