APTA Award

Celebrating (Yes, Celebrating) 2020

While this year was anything but “business as usual,” we at Mountain Line decided to see the disruption caused by COVID-19 as an opportunity to reimagine how we serve Missoula

We accomplished so much in 2020 and are proud of the resilience and unending dedication of our team. Here are our highlights from the year.

COVID-19: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Even during the height of the shutdown in Missoula, we continued to operate. Our employees showed up each day to provide essential service, helping frontline workers get to work and riders access the grocery store, doctor’s office and other essential services.

We are grateful to our team and our community for their support and recognizing the importance of reliable, accessible transportation in keeping our community running. And we remain committed to keeping our operators and riders as safe as possible, every day.

Learn more about our commitments to safety here.

In addition to never shutting down, we found new ways to serve and connect our community.

We partnered with the American Cancer Society and our local hospitals to provide safe transportation to cancer treatment patients in Missoula.

During the height of the shutdown, we turned electric buses into community Wi-Fi hotspots for those needing reliable internet access to attend school, navigate unemployment, or simply connect with their loved ones.

We also organized a five-week-long livestream concert series, inviting local musicians to perform on our electric bus while streaming the show to thousands. We partnered with over a dozen local businesses to sponsor individual artists, ensuring our musicians were compensated while keeping the concerts free to the public. Ultimately, our concert series benefited 15 local musicians and engaged over 7,500 viewers. It also led to Mountain Line receiving the Arts Missoula Star award in September, for its support of local artists.

You can watch all of our summer concerts on our YouTube Channel.

Sustainability: A Banner Year For Mountain Line

In 2020, we took our commitment to sustainability to the next level by committing to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035.

We already have six electric buses on the road and six more on the way. When our new buses arrive, we’ll be 40 percent all electric! This milestone distinguishes Mountain Line as a leader in clean public transportation in the United States.

The purchase of these six new electric vehicles was made possible by $4.6 million in federal and state grants awarded to Mountain Line in May 2020. We were the first agency in Montana to receive funding from the Volkswagen Environmental Trust Settlement, via a $1 million grant awarded by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. We also successfully competed for a $3.6 million Low- or No- Emissions grant through the Federal Transit Administration.

Learn more about our commitment to sustainability.

Moving Missoula Forward: Improving Service to Benefit Us All

In the spring of 2020, we kicked off our Bus Stop Improvement Project. This is one of the largest projects our agency has ever undertaken and will impact EVERY single bus stop along Mountain Line’s 12 fixed routes. 

The project is focused on three goals:

  • Improve safety.
  • Increase accessibility.
  • Maximize efficiency.

By the numbers, this project will:

Construction is still underway and is expected to conclude in summer 2021.

In addition to launching external improvements, we turned our attention inward this year, working as an agency to improve our internal practices. We formed our first Diversity and Inclusion Committee and formalized our commitment to creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive environment for our employees, riders and community.

Finally, (and this is a big one), we received overwhelming support from voters to expand our zero-fare service later into the evening and, for the first time ever, on Sundays! Our successful mill levy request will usher in a new era of service for Mountain Line. We’re currently in the process of expanding our team (we’re hiring!), with a plan to debut voter-approved service expansions in early 2022.

Stay updated on mill levy expansions here. We’ll have more details posted in January 2021.

Thank you for an amazing year, despite the challenges. We are honored to be part of this community and look forward to serving you in 2021.

Mountain Line Funding Request to Appear on November Ballot

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.