Mountain Line Resolves to Eliminate Tailpipe Emissions by 2035

Electric Buses Will Result in Cleaner Air for Missoula 

The Missoula valley airshed will be cleaner in the coming years, thanks to a resolution approved recently by Mountain Line’s governing board—the Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD). The resolution adopted in late February commits Mountain Line to the goal of eliminating all tailpipe emissions from its fleet of vehicles by 2035. 

“Clean air is important to the health of everyone in our community, whether you frequently ride the bus or not,” said Jesse Dodson, MUTD board chair. “Cleaner air means healthier lungs. Healthier lungs mean healthier people and a stronger, healthier community.” 

The resolution to eliminate tailpipe emissions, approved February 27, 2020, was informed in part by scientists’ projections that wildfire seasons will be longer and more severe due to a warming climate, which could significantly impact Missoula’s airshed. Mountain Line also factored in the Greenhouse Gas Inventory conducted by Climate Smart Missoula in March 2017 that found transportation to be the largest source of local greenhouse gas emissions.  

“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. “Breathing challenges can have far greater implications than we ever imagined, as we’ve seen firsthand with the spread of COVID-19 around the world.” 

This resolution formalized Mountain Line’s longstanding commitment to clean air, public health and its support of Missoula County’s goal of carbon neutrality for all government operations by 2035. Mountain Line intends to meet its own 2035 zero-tailpipe-emissions goal, in part, by continuing to invest in electric buses and other sustainable transportation technology as it becomes available. Mountain Line added its first six electric buses to its fleet last year, after successfully competing for a federal “Low-No” grant intended to reduce vehicle emissions and air pollution.  

“Our new electric buses are working well and have been celebrated by our community,” said Cilimburg, “This solidified for us that we have a viable way forward to transition to a more sustainable fleet.”  

A collaborative analysis between Mountain Line staff and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2019 found that a battery-electric bus reduces annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 77 percent and annual nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) by 71 percent, compared to a diesel bus. The study considered the current mix of energy sources comprising the Montana electric grid and Mountain Line staff are preparing for additional analysis of existing and projected vehicle needs against anticipated zero-emission vehicle technology and energy costs. 

“We know this resolution is only the beginning," said Dodson. “It’s an ambitious goal, and we don’t have all the answers for how we’re going to achieve it by 2035, but it is really exciting. Our commitment to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet creates opportunities for innovation and collaboration. We’re committed to moving Missoula forward sustainably, factoring in public health, clean air and our carbon footprint. That’s something to make everyone feel proud.” 

In January 2015, Mountain Line transitioned to a “zero-fare” system, with the help of local government, businesses and nonprofits, while adding late evening service on four routes. Since then 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 demand for parking, Mountain Line benefits the entire community.  

In January 2015, Mountain Line transitioned to a “zero-fare” system, with the help of local government, businesses and nonprofits, while adding late evening service on four routes. Since then 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 demand for parking, Mountain Line benefits the entire community.  

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