APTA Award

Bus to Ballot: Your Ride to Vote

Election Day is November 7, which means it’s time to make your plan to get your ballot dropped off. Catch Mountain Line to cast your vote at the following spots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day next Tuesday:

Elections Center (140 N. Russell St., also open for ballot drop-off 8 a.m.-5 p.m. leading up to Election Day): Route 2

Missoula Public Library (455 E. Main St.): Routes 1, 4, 5, 12

Former Cold Springs School (2625 Briggs St.): Routes 7, 12

C.S. Porter Middle School (2510 W Central Ave.): Routes 6, 8 (Route 9 nearby)

Missoula Fairgrounds drive-through near the YMCA: Route 6 (Routes 1, 7 nearby)

Locations with a ~1-mile walk from transit:

Hellgate Elementary School (2385 Flynn Lane): Route 11

DeSmet School (6355 Padre Lane): Route 11

For more information about eligibility, registration, and ballot drop-off locations, visit www.MissoulaVotes.com. See maps and schedules and plan your trip here.

MUTD Statement Re: Weapons Policy

October 3, 2023

Mountain Line was recently compelled to announce an unwelcome change to our weapons policy—a change forced upon us not by choice, but by legal necessity. As of October 1, 2023, our buses will now only prohibit unlawful weapons. However, our existing policy banning any kind of weapon in Mountain Line buildings remains in place.

This change is in reluctant compliance with a Montana state law enacted in 2020, which severely restricts local government’s ability to regulate firearms. As a government agency, the Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD) is legally bound to comply. We have maintained our original policy as long as we could, but recent threats left us with no viable alternative.

Let us be unequivocally clear: this decision was made neither lightly nor willingly. Since late August, when MUTD became aware of a potential lawsuit from a pro-gun special interest group, we have consulted with legal experts and other agencies around Montana and across the country to determine what recourse, if any, was available to us. The MUTD Board of Directors and senior staff have spent many hours deliberating on the best available course of action to keep our employees and passengers—as well as the wider community—as safe as possible. The conclusion is inescapable: resisting this change would likely be a futile and costly endeavor.

We strongly disagree with the notion that allowing firearms on public transit serves the best interests of the community and the people who regularly use or operate buses. The legislation as written did not adequately consider public transit, safety, common sense, and local expertise, and the current law undermines our commitment to ensuring the safety of our employees, passengers, and the community.

While we are forced to comply with state law, we are not silenced by it. MUTD is actively investigating avenues to push back against this requirement and fully intends to do so.

In the meantime, we are choosing to prioritize employee and passenger safety in our new policy by reducing the risk of unnecessary confrontation or aggressive challenges to the weapons ban. By removing the need for operators to confront those attempting to bring weapons on board—focusing instead on passenger behavior, rather than what they may be carrying on their person—we expect to continue to provide as safe an environment on board as we can. Any threatening, dangerous, or aggressive behavior will continue to be prohibited, as it always has been. Mountain Line is confident in our operators, supervisors, and safety procedures, and we trust that the community members who use our service will continue to treat their fellow Missoulians with care and respect.

We invite those with questions or concerns to contact us directly.

MUTD Weapons Policy, effective 10/01/2023:

No unlawful weapons shall be brought aboard MUTD vehicles. In cases where the law allows the possession of weapons, individuals may not display or handle these weapons in a manner that could reasonably cause fear or alarm among other individuals or District employees.

No weapons of any kind are permitted inside MUTD buildings. District employees are prohibited from carrying firearms, knives, or any other weapons on MUTD property, including in vehicles. Any exceptions to this policy must be approved in writing by the General Manager.

Full Weekday Service Resumes August 21

Mountain Line will be returning to regular weekday service on Monday, August 21, after running a modified weekday schedule since April. 

Routes 1 and 2 will resume 15-minute weekday service, while Routes 8 and 12 will resume half-hour service during peak demand hours in the mornings and late afternoons. Detailed schedule information can be found on our website and in the Transit app. 

As always, please get in touch with any questions!

Mountain Line Wins $39 Million Federal Grant to Build New Facility

MISSOULA, Mont.—Mountain Line’s proposal to build a new Maintenance, Operations, and Administration Base (MOAB) was selected by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as an award recipient, bringing more than $39 million of federal infrastructure funding to the agency and paving the way to build a critically necessary new facility. The applicant pool included 475 projects, with 130 selected for funding.

“Mountain Line is thrilled to get this vote of confidence from the FTA,” says Corey Aldridge, CEO and General Manager of Mountain Line, which was named Transit System of the Year for North America in 2021. “Our biggest need right now is a new facility to better serve a rapidly growing Missoula—and this funding will allow us to fulfill that need.”

The Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD), which operates Mountain Line, has been at its current facility on Shakespeare Street for more than four decades. In recent years, the lack of sufficient space has restricted the agency’s ability to prepare for Missoula’s increasing population and the corresponding demand for public transit, especially in areas of dense development and new housing.

The awarded funds, part of the FTA’s Low or No Emission Grant Program, will enable MUTD to design and build a new facility that can develop with the agency in multiple phases through the coming decades. The new MOAB will be fully electric, in keeping with the agency’s commitment to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035. Mountain Line is nationally recognized as an industry leader in its bus electrification efforts, and the new facility will support its ongoing transition to a more sustainable transit system.

The federal funds awarded require a local match, which MUTD has been preparing for in recent years while seeking a new location.

“This award comes at a pivotal moment for Mountain Line and Missoula,” says Projects & Planning Manager Colin Woodrow. “This funding leverages local money to meet current space and programming needs and addresses Missoula’s growing demand and Mountain Line’s future growth, as well as reaching other key strategic goals, including those shared by the City and County.”

Since 2017, Mountain Line has successfully applied for multiple competitive FTA awards under the Low and No-Emissions and Bus & Bus Facilities programs to fund its transition to a battery-electric fleet, including a $10.9 million award last August for the purchase of 10 new electric buses. Funding a larger facility will lay the groundwork for MUTD to deliver additional service, including ambitious collaborative efforts like Bus Rapid Transit along the Brooks Street corridor, currently being studied in the Transform Brooks—Connect Midtown planning project.

This discretionary grant award will come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). “Reliable, affordable public transit plays a key role in supporting our state’s economy and creating good-paying Montana jobs,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), a prominent supporter of the infrastructure package.

Other local and state officials submitted letters of support for Mountain Line’s grant proposal, including Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), the Missoula Board of County Commissioners, and Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess.

“I’m certain that the support we received from community partners and elected officials helped us get across the finish line this year,” says Aldridge. “We came into the application process prepared with a concrete plan and a clear vision for Mountain Line’s role in Missoula, and the enthusiastic support of our partners and leaders showed that Missoula is ready for us to follow through on that plan and invest in a more connected, mobile, and sustainable community.”

###

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 and was named Montana’s System of the Year in 2023. 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. Mountain Line provides more than 1.5 million rides annually, helping students get to school, employees get to work, and older adults 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.    

Staffing Shortage Forces Temporary Schedule Cuts

MISSOULA, Mont.—Due to an ongoing staffing shortage, Mountain Line began a temporary service modification on Monday, April 3, affecting bus frequency on Routes 8 and 12.

Instead of running at half-hour intervals during peak demand hours in the mornings and late afternoons, both routes will run hourly, allowing 10 employee hours per day to be reallocated and relieving the strain on the current workforce.

Additional service modifications affecting Routes 1 and 2 are scheduled to begin on April 16. Instead of a 15-minute service frequency, Routes 1 and 2 will run at 20-minute intervals, meaning some riders may face slight delays when waiting for connecting routes.

These reductions are expected to last for at least three months and possibly through the summer. No other route or service changes are planned, and Shuttle Van and Paratransit service will continue normally.

Mountain Line has been actively recruiting new bus operators, with a new class to begin training on April 17. In the meantime, temporarily modifying schedules allows the company to continue service without overburdening bus operators and dispatchers.

“The last thing we want to do is cut service,” says Director of Operations Jennifer Sweten. “We tried to hold off as long as we could. But with so many employees out sick during flu season, and a continuing labor shortage, we just had no choice but to relieve the pressure on our current operators.”

Revised schedules for Routes 1 and 2 will be posted shortly; schedules for Routes 8 and 12 are up to date on the Mountain Line website: Maps & Schedules – Mountain Line. The Transit app will be updated with new schedules before Route 1 and 2 changes take effect in two weeks; in the meantime, riders are advised to verify schedules on the Mountain Line website directly and watch Mountain Line’s social media channels for any updates.

Routes 8 and 12 reduced schedules:

Route 8 Outbound buses will depart from the UM Music Building hourly from 6:54 a.m. to 8:54 a.m. and from 10:24 a.m. to 8:24 p.m.

Route 8 Inbound buses will depart from Community Hospital hourly from 6:20 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. and from 9:50 a.m. to 7:50 p.m.

Route 12 Outbound buses will depart from the Downtown Transfer Center hourly from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and from 5:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

Route 12 Inbound buses will depart from 55th & Gharrett at 6 a.m., hourly from 6:58 a.m. to 12:58 p.m., from 2:28 p.m. to 4:28 p.m., and from 5:43 p.m. to 8:43 p.m.

###

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 Sees 21% Ridership Increase After Adding Seven-Day, Seven-Night Service

MISSOULA, Mont.— Mountain Line announced fixed-route ridership has increased 21% since launching seven-day and seven-night service this July. The agency provided a total of 220,429 rides on its fixed-route service in April through June of this year, compared with 267,175 rides this July through September.

“It’s fantastic to see Missoulians using the long-requested later-evening and expanded weekend service,” said Corey Aldridge, Mountain Line CEO and general manager. “This increase in ridership reinforces that Mountain Line is essential, valued and widely used.”

The agency found a 9% increase in average weekday ridership; a 59% increase in average Saturday ridership; and an average of 1,319 trips per day on its new Sunday service. A rider getting on and off the bus is considered one ride or one trip.

Mountain Line also compared fixed-route ridership from August and September of 2021 and 2022, to find overall ridership has increased 35% from last year.

 20212022
August72,14093,606
September66,07192,366
Total138,211185,972

The agency’s expanded service also benefits seniors and people living with disabilities who use Mountain Line’s Paratransit and Shuttle Van services. Paratransit ridership has increased 59% from last year during the same period.

“Mountain Line benefits us all by helping students get to school, employees get to work and seniors and those living with disabilities remain mobile and active,” said Aldridge. “Even those who don’t ride benefit from reduced traffic congestion, decreased parking demand, cleaner air and a healthier, more equitable community.”

The July service expansion was a direct response to public input gathered during Mountain Line’s strategic planning process that began in 2017 and culminated in 2020 when voters approved the agency’s service-expansion initiative by a 20% margin. While the timeline for service expansions was impacted by the national labor shortage in 2021, the agency successfully grew from 58 employees in 2021 to 100 in 2022, allowing the expansion to take place.

###

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 Bus Operator Receives Statewide Acclaim

Mountain Line bus operators Scott Nelson and Bryan Ursery pose for a photo at the Montana Transit Association meeting this month, celebrating Ursery receiving the Carey Pope Award.

MISSOULA, Mont.— Bryan Ursery has been providing safe, reliable service to Missoulians as a Mountain Line bus operator for 23 years. His safety record is equally long, having never had a preventable accident in all that time. Ursery’s dedication to his field, his outstanding customer service to his riders, and his encouragement of his peers earned him the Carey Pope Award, equivalent to a lifetime achievement, bestowed by the Montana Transit Association at their annual conference last week.

“Bryan always goes above and beyond to make riders, coworkers, and community members feel welcomed and valued,” said Jennifer Sweten, Director of Operations. “He remembers the smallest details shared about your life and asks follow-up questions months later when you board his bus or pass him in the hall. He is respected by peers and loved by riders.”

Ursery has also won multiple internal agency awards for his dedication to his position since starting with Mountain Line in 1999. At the agency level, Ursery has won “Operations Employee of the Year” four times; “Perfect Attendance” seven times; and “Outstanding Customer Service” three times.

He also continues to prioritize honing his own skills as an operator and has been a frequent competitor in the Bus Roadeo, a state and national event that pits bus operators from different agencies against each other in a safety-based obstacle course. Ursery has won the Montana statewide Roadeo Division I title six times (’00, ’04, ’07, ’11, ’14, ’19) and took first place in the American Public Transportation Association’s national Customer Service Challenge at the International Bus Roadeo in Memphis, Tennessee in 2011.

“Bryan is an exemplary employee and bus operator, one we are lucky to have on our team,” said Sweten. “He is humble, invested in his transit family, and well deserving of this award.”

###

Mountain Line launched seven-day and seven-night service in July 2022, putting 30% more service on the road. The agency 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. Mountain Line 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.

Senator Tester’s Staff Tours Mountain Line Facility

Tim VanReken, a Legislative Fellow with U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s office, and Jennifer Sweten, Director of Operations at Mountain Line, look at the mechanics of a battery-electric bus in Mountain Line’s maintenance bay.

MISSOULA, Mont.— Mountain Line welcomed Tim VanReken, a Legislative Fellow with U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s Office (D-MT), for a facility tour Thursday. VanReken spent the morning reviewing Mountain Line’s electrification efforts and learning about the agency’s plans to convert to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035.

“We’ve learned a lot in the last three years about charging infrastructure, battery capacity, and the mechanics of maintaining an electric fleet,” said Jennifer Sweten, Director of Operations at Mountain Line. “We’re sharing what we’ve learned with officials and other transit agencies to demonstrate the value of federal support and to help other agencies transition as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Mountain Line was awarded a $10 million Low or No Emissions grant from the Federal Transit Administration on August 16, which will allow the agency to purchase 10 new battery-electric buses and bring its fleet to 90% electric by the end of the decade. The Low or No Emissions Grant Program received a $1.05 billion increase in funding as a direct result of Tester’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; both Tester and U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) provided bi-partisan support for Mountain Line’s most recent grant application. Two other Montana agencies also received FTA funding for bus infrastructure improvements.

“Every day, folks in the Treasure State rely on public transit to commute to work, get their kids to school, shop at their local businesses, and enjoy all that Big Sky Country has to offer,” Tester said in an email to Mountain Line staff preceding VanReken’s visit. “This funding for upgrading buses and bus stations across Montana will pay dividends for working families, small businesses, and our climate. I’m proud to have secured cutting-edge investments like this one that will modernize Montana’s transit infrastructure and power our local economies for years to come.”

###

Mountain Line launched seven-day and seven-night service in July 2022, putting 30% more service on the road. The agency 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. Mountain Line  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.

Mountain Line Awarded $10 M Federal Grant to Purchase New Electric Buses

Largest grant ever awarded will bring agency’s fixed-route fleet to 90% electric

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.

Mountain Line to Expand to Seven-Day Service on July 10

Service will increase by 30% to include Sundays and extended evening hours

MISSOULA, Mont.—Starting July 10, Mountain Line will expand to seven-day service by adding Sunday service for the first time ever and operating later into the evening, increasing service by 30%.

“This is a transformative moment for Mountain Line,” said Corey Aldridge, Mountain Line CEO and general manager. “We’re grateful to be fully staffed and able to make our dream of seven-day service a reality this summer.”

This service expansion is a direct response to public input gathered during Mountain Line’s strategic planning process that began in 2017 and culminated in 2020 when voters approved the agency’s service-expansion initiative by a 20% margin. While the timeline for service expansions was impacted by the national labor shortage in 2021, the agency has successfully grown from 58 employees in April of 2021, to 100 employees in April of this year.

Highlights of the July 10service expansion include:

  • Sunday service from 9 AM to 9 PM*
  • Saturday service from 9 AM to 10:45 PM*
  • Expanded weekday hours, from 6 AM to 10:45 PM*
  • All-day service on Routes 4 & 11

*Hours vary by route.

These service expansions will benefit fixed-route riders, and seniors and people living with disabilities who use Mountain Line’s Paratransit and Shuttle Van services.

Also starting July 10, the agency will be changing some routing on Routes 3, 5 and 11, (details available online), and increasing service on holidays. Effective the same date, Mountain Line will operate every day except New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

“Mountain Line benefits us all by helping students get to school, employees get to work and seniors and those living with disabilities remain mobile and active. Even those who don’t ride benefit from reduced traffic congestion, decreased parking demand and cleaner air,” said Jesse Dodson, Missoula Urban Transportation District board chair. “We’re excited to amplify these benefits this summer to help build a healthier, more equitable community.”

Detailed schedules and more information can be found at mountainline.com/service-expansion.

###

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.