Mountain Line looks to masks, route changes as pandemic plays on

Mountain Line will implement changes to several routes this week and is now asking passengers to wear masks when they catch a ride.

Like most other operations across Missoula, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a bite out of ridership, prompting the city’s transportation agency to make adjustments on the fly.

Starting on Wednesday, Mountain Line will expand the frequency of Route 2 and will suspend Route 1 until further notice. Riders who frequent Route 1 will be served by Routes 6, 7 and 12.

“Even while ridership is down considerably, there are still times with too many people on the buses,” said Corey Aldridge, general manager of Mountain Line. “That’s why we’re going through altering the routes. Hopefully it will create that social or physical distancing that’s necessary.”

Along with the changes, Mountain Line will introduce additional buses on Route 2, ensuring they arrive every 30 minutes. The goal is to spread passengers out to maintain social distancing, as recommended by the CDC as a way to slow the pandemic.

Mountain Line also is asking riders to wear masks while on a bus.

“Us asking the public to wear masks on the bus is brand new,” Aldridge said. “This really is a matter of just trying to keep our operators safe and work on that social distancing.”

Mountain Line is also asking passengers to refrain from boarding a bus if it already contains more than 10 passengers, and as long as their schedule permits it.

“We are asking all riders to limit their trips to essential travel only,” Aldridge said. “This includes trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, non-COVID-19-related medical appointments, and work.”