History & Facts
The Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD) was established by voters in June of 1976. The vote established taxing authority for the creation of the district and passed by a margin of 2 to 1. The resulting service, known as Mountain Line, began operating on December 12, 1977.
Since that time, Mountain Line has grown to provide an average of 1.5 million rides per year on our fixed-route service, a record we first reached in 2017. Ridership today is up 70 percent from 2014, in large part due to Mountain Line’s Phase II service enhancements and the popular Zero-Fare program, which debuted in 2015.
Our system serves 70 square miles throughout the Missoula Valley, running 12 fixed routes with a fleet of 30, all ADA-accessible coaches. Within our service territory we also offer door-to-door Paratransit service and a complimentary door-to-door Shuttle Van service for seniors not eligible for Paratransit under ADA.
During popular community events, such as the Western Montana Fair, Farmers Market and Out to Lunch, we operate special service in collaboration with community partners.
To learn more about Mountain Line’s vision for the future, see our commitment to sustainability and our 2018 Strategic Plan.
- June 1976 – 1977: Missoula Urban Transportation District is created by the voters by more than a 2 to 1 ratio in 1976. The next year, we set up headquarters at Tabers Truck Service Center in East Missoula and begin running three routes using four old buses, with a fare of $0.25.
- 1978 – 1983: Six routes and 10 new buses go into service. Service area expands and, by April 1980, ridership increases 40 percent due to rising gas prices. In May of the same year, our headquarters moves to 1221 Shakespeare St, where we still reside today.
- December 1992: We move our main transfer point from Main and Pattee streets to its current location outside the County Courthouse on Broadway Street.
- 1996: Mountain Line switches from contract management to local management in October 1996 and, in December of the same year, begins running a downtown circulator trolley through a partnership with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and the Missoula Parking Commission. The next year, we launch our Kids Ride Free in Summer program.
- April 2000: Our Downtown Transfer Center lobby opens.
- 2001: Our bus fleet becomes 100 percent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible at the start of the year and service extends to 7:15 PM. on some routes that September.
- December 2002: Mountain Line partners with Missoula in Motion, the Missoula Downtown Association (MDA), and the Missoula Parking Commission to provide unlimited-use bus passes to qualified MDA member employees.
- December 2002: Celebrate 25 years of service.
- May 2003: Begin free trolley service to the Saturday markets.
- May 2005: Mountain Line institutes a year-round schedule, rather than decreasing service during the summer.
- January 2006: Mid-day service expands on routes 2, 4, and 6, plus later service on all routes.
- September 2007: Route 11 is added.
- December 2007: Celebrate 30 years of service.
- 2008: Mountain Line moves into a renovated operations facility, providing covered parking for vehicles, expanded maintenance facilities, additional office space, and a bus wash using recycled water.
- January 2009: Begin Shuttle Van service (previously called Senior Van).
- July 2009: Mountain Line provides 828,887 rides on our fixed routes, a 4 percent increase over the previous year. Mountain Line has provided over 19 Million rides since it began service.
- 2011: Free Wi-Fi service added to buses and real-time informational systems available to passengers.
- 2012: Implementation of Phase I Route changes in August. We debut the first-ever 15-minute all-day service in Missoula (Route 1), branded as BOLT! Service. In November, the Downtown Transfer Center Bike Facility opens and Mountain Line carries 30,322 bikes on its buses (FY2012).
- November 2013: Voters pass a $1.7 million levy to expand Mountain Line services to fund Phase II changes, including an additional 15-minute BOLT! route and late evening service until 10 pm.
- January 2015: Begin Zero-fare demonstration project for three years. Phase II service begins, which includes BOLT! Service on Route 2, service until 10 p.m. on Routes 1, 2, 6 and 7 and increased Paratransit services.
- January 2016: Ridership grows to over 1 million rides annually, a 40 percent increase in the first 12 months of Phase II and Zero-Fare. Mountain Line breaks the 1 million annual rides barrier for the first time in its history.
- 2017: Ridership grows to over 1.5 million rides annually in September, a 70 percent increase since December 2014. The Zero-Fare partners agree to continue the program through 2020. In December, Mountain Line celebrates 40 years of public transit service.
- 2018: Mountain Line receives a $500,000 Low-No Emissions grant for six new electric buses and a $2.7 million Bus and Bus Facilities Grant for improved bus stops and infrastructure in April. In June, we launch our new Out to Lunch Trolley route. In August, the MUTD board of directors adopts the 2018 Strategic Plan, and Mountain Line welcomes Golden Yolk Griddle (formerly called Ninja Mike’s) as a vendor in the Downtown Transfer Center.
- 2019: Our first six electric buses enter into service.
- 2020: The MUTD Board of Directors adopts a resolution for a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035. Service is reduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Mountain Line receives two significant grants to purchase six additional electric buses:
- A $1 million Clean Transit Bus grant from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) through funding from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Settlement. Mountain Line is the first recipient of this funding in Montana.
- A $3.6 million Low- or No-Emissions Bus Program grant from the FTA.
- November 2020: Voters approve a mill levy increase by a record 20% margin, allowing Mountain Line to expand to seven-day and seven-night service, and to bring Zero-Fare under its regular operating budget.
- 2021: Mountain Line wins the prestigious 2021 American Public Transportation Association' Outstanding Public Transportation System of the Year Award. Labor shortages linked to the COVID-19 pandemic impact Mountain Line, resulting in reduced service on some routes and a delay in scaling up to put seven-day, seven-night service on the road.
- May 2021: "Climate Conscious Creatures Wheel Toward a Sustainable Future," a public art installation by Stella Nall, is completed at the Downtown Transfer Center.
- August 2021: Missoula and Mountain Line are host to the national, 7th Annual Community Transportation Association of America's Small Urban Network Conference.
- January 2022: Mountain Line celebrates the addition of six electric buses to its fleet, bringing the total to 12 battery-electric buses out of 29, which is 40% of its fixed-route fleet.