MISSOULA, Mont.— Mountain Line is committed to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035, and thanks to a $10 million Low or No Emissions grant awarded by the Federal Transit Administration Tuesday, the agency’s fixed-route fleet will be 90% of the way there this decade.
“This award will greatly benefit the Missoula Valley airshed by helping Mountain Line further reduce its carbon footprint to keep our air clean,” said Corey Aldridge, Mountain Line CEO and general manager. “While public transportation is already part of the solution as we work toward a more sustainable future, we want to go even further by making Missoula’s public transportation as clean as possible.”
Replacing aging diesel buses with zero-tailpipe-emission buses will reduce Mountain Line’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 586 metric tons and prevent the release of 17.5 pounds of particulate matter from entering the Missoula valley airshed annually.
“To quantify these positive benefits another way, this reduction in emissions and particulate matter results in a social cost saving of an estimated $64,000 each year,” said Mountain Line Projects and Planning Manager, Colin Woodrow. “Our transition to an electric fleet benefits all Missoulians by protecting our air quality for a healthier community and planet.”
Additionally, operating battery electric buses instead of comparable modern fossil-fuel buses will reduce the amount of energy that Mountain Line uses each year by 6,030 gigajoules. That energy is equivalent to 100 years’ worth of gas for the average American car driver every year.
Mountain Line was an early adopter of battery-electric bus (BEB) technology in the U.S., debuting its first six electric buses in the summer of 2019. Now, with 12 BEBs in service, Mountain Line has become a resource for agencies across the country looking to make the same transition.
“We’ve learned a lot in the last three years about charging infrastructure, battery capacity in cold weather, and the mechanics of maintaining an electric fleet,” said Aldridge. “We’re sharing what we’ve learned with other transit agencies to help them transition as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Mountain Line’s leadership in transitioning to BEBs played a key role in securing this most recent grant, the largest received in the agency’s 45 years, as did robust community and congressional support. The grant application received bi-partisan support from Senators Daines and Tester, and local support from the Missoula County Commissioners, the late Mayor John Engen, University of Montana, Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization, Providence St. Patrick Hospital, Clearwater Credit Union, Homeword, Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation, Climate Smart Missoula, City of Missoula Climate Action, MMW Architects, and Missoula Midtown Association.
The award is the fourth, and largest, Low or No Emissions grant Mountain Line has received in the last five years.
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, to average more than 1.5 million rides annually pre-pandemic. Mountain Line helps 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.