APTA Award

Mountain Line Launches Route Race in Time for Earth Week

For Immediate Release April 13, 2022

MISSOULA –Launching Earth Week, Mountain Line will host a week-long, “Amazing Race”-style Route Race. Missoulians are encouraged to try their hand at solving clues as they use the bus to venture across Missoula, earning a grand-prize entry at their final check-in location.

Route Race participants will receive their first clue Monday morning, April 18, at 8:00 AM, by visiting Mountain Line’s website or watching the agency’s social media channels. Participants will need to use a smartphone to scan QR codes at each race check-in location and will need email access to receive their next clue. All Route Race locations have a QR code posted in an exterior-facing window and participants are kindly asked not to enter businesses looking for the next clue.

There are five check-in locations in the race. In order to earn an entry for the grand-prize drawing, racers must check in at all stops by 11:59 PM, Saturday, April 23. The grand-prize package includes the following prizes, generously donated by local businesses and organizations:

  • $25 Downtown Missoula gift card.
  • Western Montana Fair t-shirt, poster, and GA ticket to an event of your choice (including the rodeo, Xtreme Bulls, and motorsports).
  • 1-year membership with Run Wild Missoula + a FREE race entry into one of the 2022 RWM running events (with a few exceptions) + RWM swag.
  • Rockin Rudy’s Hydro Flask.
  • 5-punch pass to The Roxy Theater.
  • Mountain Line swag.

The Route Race is part of Mountain Line’s month-long Spring Shift campaign. The campaign is focused on encouraging Missoulians to shift their behaviors to be more sustainable as we head into warmer weather. Spring Shift has multiple facets, including the Route Race, month-long sustainability Challenges and a family-friendly Scavenger Hunt.

Get your first clue in the Route Race at https://mountainline.com/spring-shift-route-race.

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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.    

Mayor Declares March 18 Transit Operator Appreciation Day

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.

Above: Mountain Line bus operators Yulianus Kogoya (left) and Dave Stalling (right) began their transit careers driving for UDASH. Kogoya earned his B.A. in Geography last year, with a focus on water and sustainability, and conducted independent research in transit planning while at UM. Stalling earned an M.A. in creative writing and enjoys providing accessible transportation throughout Missoula, while continuing to write and publish in his off time.

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:

Facebook: @MountainLineTransit and @umtransportation.

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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.

Mountain Line Reaches Milestone of 40% Electric in Time for Clean Air Month

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 FacebookInstagram and YouTube in the coming weeks.  

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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.    

Mountain Line Celebrates 44 Years This December

December 10, 2021

MISSOULA – Mountain Line, Missoula’s community bus service, celebrates its 44th anniversary this month. To commemorate this milestone, staff will be riding along various routes the week of December 13th, passing out Mountain Line swag and treats to riders. 

Mountain Line began operating on December 12, 1977, with just three routes and four buses based in East Missoula. Since then, Mountain Line has grown into a robust public transportation agency, providing an average of 1.5 million rides annually across 70 square miles in the Missoula Valley, all at zero-fare.  

“I am humbled by all our agency has accomplished in forty-four years, thanks to our forward-thinking staff, board of directors, and community,” said CEO and General Manager, Corey Aldridge. “Mountain Line is now a leader among small urban networks, paving the way on initiatives like transitioning to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet and debuting safety and technology efforts often only seen at larger agencies.” 

Mountain Line was recognized for its accomplishments this year by the American Public Transportation Association, earning APTA’s top distinction of 2021 Outstanding Public Transportation System in North America in its size. This award recognized Mountain Line’s efforts to create a more equitable, accessible community, among other accomplishments. 

“Mountain Line benefits us all, from getting people where they need to go, to helping keep our valley air clean,” said Aldridge. “We’re excited to amplify those benefits moving into our forty-fourth year, by offering seven-day and seven-night service in the months to come.” 

Last year, Missoula voters overwhelming approved a plan to expand Mountain Line’s service to include Sundays and later evenings. The agency is prepared to debut that expanded service once adequately staffed. To learn more about upcoming expansions, or to start your new career, visit mountainline.com.  

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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.    

Mountain Line to Offer Special Parade-of-Lights Shuttle December 4

MISSOULA – Mountain Line is pleased to offer special shuttle service this Saturday, December 4, for the Reverse Parade of Lights in Downtown Missoula. Parade-goers can catch Mountain Line’s electric bus on Ryman Street, directly outside of the Central Park Garage, approximately every 20 minutes between 4 PM and 7 PM during the event.

The shuttle is aimed at providing accessible transportation while also helping to decrease traffic congestion and protect air quality.

“Hopping on our electric-bus shuttle gives everyone a front-row seat to view the floats parked along Higgins, without having to deal with the stress of traffic,” said Mountain Line CEO and General Manager, Corey Aldridge. “Plus, riders will get to check out our newest electric bus, benefiting us all by helping keep our valley air clean.”

A reminder that masks are required onboard all Mountain Line vehicles, and eating or drinking is not permitted. The Parade of Lights Route Map is available here.

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Mountain Line to Adjust Service Due to Staffing Shortage

MISSOULA – Starting Monday, October 18, Mountain Line will adjust frequency on Routes 1 and 2 from 15 minutes to 20 minutes in response to a staffing shortage. Routes 8 and 12 will also operate on adjusted schedules. These changes will remain in effect until further notice. 

Like many agencies across Missoula and the nation, Mountain Line is shorthanded.  

“COVID-19 has changed our community on many levels,” said Mountain Line CEO and General Manager Corey Aldridge. “Like many other workplaces right now, we are facing difficulty in recruiting suitable employees. Making these slight adjustments to schedules allows us to continue serving riders without major disruptions.”  

To provide regularly-scheduled service, Mountain Line needs a minimum of 50 full-time bus operators. Currently, the agency has 41 full-time drivers, with five more in various stages of training, and is actively recruiting for its next training class beginning November 1. 

“We are seeking individuals committed to safety and exceptional customer service, not necessarily those with previous transit experience,” said Aldridge. “A career with Mountain Line is about serving Missoula to benefit us all, with the opportunity to learn public transportation from the ground up.” 

Mountain Line offers comprehensive paid training, including taking employees through the process of earning their commercial driver’s license. The agency also offers full benefits and contributes to employee health reimbursement accounts, gym membership fees and retirement pensions on top of hourly wage. 

For more details or to apply, visit mountainline.com/careers.  

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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.    

Announcing: Missoula Attractions Map!

Mountain Line has partnered with Destination Missoula to create a special route map showing how to access Missoula attraction by bus! Ride zero-fare to enjoy outdoor recreation, history, shopping and more.

Download the PDF here.

Mountain Line Introduces New Electric Buses into Service, Expects Four More By Year End

For Immediate Release: August 26, 2021

MISSOULA – Next week, two new battery-electric buses will take to the streets as the latest additions to Mountain Line’s rapidly growing fleet of zero-tailpipe-emissions buses. These buses, in addition to four more on the way, will bring Mountain Line’s fixed-route fleet to over 40% electric by year end.

Mountain Line was an early adopter of the new battery-electric technology in the U.S., debuting its first electric buses in the summer of 2019.

“We’ve learned a lot in the last two years about charging infrastructure, battery capacity in cold weather, and the mechanics of maintaining an electric fleet,” said Mountain Line Projects and Planning Manager, Vince Caristo, who has authored a series of successful grants to purchase electric buses. “The most important thing we learned, though, is that we have a viable way forward to transition our entire fleet to zero-emissions technology in the coming years.”

Following the successful launch of the first six electric buses, the Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD) board of directors, the governing body of Mountain Line, committed to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035, citing goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting Missoula’s fragile air quality.

“Despite improvements over the past decade, air quality remains a serious issue in Missoula, especially during winter inversions and summer wildfire season,” said Amy Cilimburg, MUTD board member and executive director of Climate Smart Missoula. “We’re committed to moving Missoula forward sustainably to improve public health, keep our air clean and lower our carbon footprint to benefit all Missoulians.”

The vision for cleaner air in the Missoula valley resonated with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which awarded Mountain Line a $1 million grant in December 2019 to purchase the two GILLIG-manufactured electric buses entering service next week.

“DEQ is proud to partner with Mountain Line to cut emissions and drive energy innovation with these new electric buses,” said Sonja Nowakowski, administrator of DEQ’s Air, Energy & Mining Division. “By reducing nitrogen oxide emissions, projects like this create healthier air in Montana communities.”

Mountain Line’s electric buses consume less energy per mile than buses using other common propulsion technologies, such as gasoline, diesel and natural gas engines.

“Operating battery-electric buses instead of comparable modern fossil-fuel buses will reduce the amount of energy that Mountain Line uses each year by 3.5 terajoules,” Caristo said. “That energy is equivalent to 58 years worth of gas for the average American car driver every year.”

Deploying zero-tailpipe-emission buses in place of its existing vehicles will also reduce Mountain Line’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 252 tons and prevent the release of 7.6 pounds of particulate matter from entering the Missoula airshed annually.

“To quantify these positive benefits another way, this reduction in emissions and particulate matter results in a social cost saving of $13,000 each year,” said Caristo. “Our transition to an electric fleet benefits all Missoulians by protecting our air quality for a healthier community.”

Progress toward an entire fleet conversion is in full swing. This June, the Federal Transit Administration Low or No Emissions Vehicle Program awarded the agency a $3.6 million grant to purchase additional electric buses, thanks to the bipartisan support of Montana Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester.

This grant will allow Mountain Line to purchase four more electric buses and charging infrastructure, which will bring Mountain Line’s fleet to 57% electric when they arrive in 2023. The grant will also allow the agency to lead a comparative study of electric bus technologies that will inform other transit agencies hoping to make the transition to electric.  

Mountain Line will have one of the new electric GILLIGs available for the public to tour this Friday at River City Roots Festival and Saturday during Family Fun Fest in Caras Park.

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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.   

Federal TSA Mask Mandate Extended

The TSA has extended the federal mask mandate to January 18, 2022. This mandate applies to all transportation networks in the United States, including Mountain Line. Therefore, in order to remain in compliance, Mountain Line will continue to require face masks be properly worn by all riders ages 2+ while on board all vehicles and in all transfer centers.

To apply for a medical exemption, please email info@mountainline.com or call 406-721-3333.

Beartracks Bridge Open to Mountain Vehicles – Route 6, Trolley Back to Normal

Beartracks Bridge [previously called Higgins Bridge] will reopen to Mountain Line vehicles starting Wednesday morning, August 18. Formerly closed stops near the bridge will reopen at that time.

The Saturday Market Trolley will also resume normal routing. Trolley map here.