New Funding Will Create Sunday Bus Service, Increase Route Frequency
MISSOULA – The Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD) Board of Directors, governing body of Mountain Line, has decided to move forward with a mill levy increase request this November to support additional, publicly-requested service expansions. These expansions include increasing bus frequency, adding full weekend service, and increasing days and hours of service for seniors and people with disabilities.
Mountain Line is asking for a mill levy increase of 20 mills, raising approximately $3 million per year, to:
- Expand weekend service, including adding Sunday bus service for the first time.
- Increase bus frequency on heavily used routes.
- Provide funding to enhance the Zero-Fare program.
- Support the conversion of its fleet from diesel to all-electric.
All service expansions will benefit both fixed-route riders and seniors and people with disabilities who utilize Mountain Line’s Paratransit and Shuttle Van services.
“Mountain Line gets people to work, school, the doctor’s office and other essential services, reduced traffic congestion by removing approximately 1.5 million vehicle trips from our roads each year, brings federal dollars to Missoula, and has a net positive impact on Missoula’s economy,” said Jesse Dodson, MUTD board chair. “As Missoula grows, it is important that everyone in the community has access to affordable, reliable transportation. Investing in public transit benefits us all, even in these difficult times.”
In 2017, Mountain Line underwent an extensive community planning process, which included several public meetings and opportunities for public comment, to inform its 2018 Strategic Plan. The process showed a community desire for expanded bus service and support to ensure Mountain Line can continue providing important public transportation to help employees get to work, students get to school and seniors and people with disabilities remain independent and active.
“Since the debut of our Zero-Fare program in 2015, we have seen ridership jump almost seventy percent, to 1.5 million rides annually,” said Dodson. “This mill levy increase will fund expanded services to meet the needs of our growing community and continue to ensure our community is accessible to everyone.”
The success of the Zero-Fare program and resulting ridership increases have allowed Mountain Line to be competitive for several federal and state grants over the last few years. Most recently, Mountain Line received two grants to purchase additional zero-emissions electric buses to replace diesel-fueled buses. The continued electrification of the fleet will assist the District in meeting its 2035 carbon reduction goals, while protecting Missoula’s air quality.
“This is a transformative moment for Mountain Line,” said Corey Aldridge, Mountain Line general manager. “We heard the desire for weekend and late-evening service and put together a plan to meet those demands. Now, with the voters’ permission, and support for this investment, we’re ready to make that plan a reality.”
The main source of operations funding for Mountain Line has been its perpetual mill levy. Since the creation of MUTD in 1976, Mountain Line has sought voter approval to increase its operating levy only once. Thanks to support of District voters in 2013, the agency was able to add an additional high-frequency BOLT! route, late-evening service and improved services for seniors and people with disabilities.
Learn more about the mill levy increase request at www.mountainline.com/mill-levy.
In 2020, Mountain Line committed to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035. This commitment solidified Mountain Line’s long-standing commitment to clean air, public health and a more sustainable future. Mountain Line became a Zero-fare system in 2015, made possible through partnerships with local government, businesses and nonprofits. Since the debut of Zero-fare, ridership has increased 70 percent. Mountain Line now provides more than 1.5 million rides annually, helping students get to school, employees get to work, and helping seniors and people 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.