Mountain Line to motorists: When the flashing begins, let the bus in

Mountain Line has launched a new ad campaign reminding motorists of a 2009 city law that requires drivers to let the buses merge into traffic. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Missoula Current

Mountain Line has launched a new ad campaign asking drivers to “Yield to the Bus,” a reminder of a city ordinance passed in 2009 requiring motorists to make room for the colorful buses as they merge into traffic.

Bill Pfeiffer, the community outreach coordinator for Mountain Line, said the campaign is aimed at raising awareness and improving compliance with the city law.

“We have stops in some very busy areas, like Russell Street or Palmer, where it can be very difficult for the bus to merge back into traffic, especially during the morning and evening rush,” said Pfeiffer. “We can all do our part to keep people safe and keep Missoula on the move.”

The City ordinance states that drivers must yield to the bus and allow it to merge into traffic when the flashing “Yield” sign on the rear of the bus illuminates. Drivers who violate the law can face a maximum fine of $500.

The measure is also intended to keep the fleet of buses running on schedule. Mountain Line launched its second Bolt! route this year, which runs on 15-minute cycles. A third route could be added on Brooks Street in the near future.

“Sometimes people need a quick reminder once in a while and that’s what our campaign aims to do,” Pfieffer said. “When the flashing begins, let the bus in.”

If one of the buses running a high-frequency route has to wait to pull into traffic, Pfieffer said, it can slip into scheduling problems down the line. That effects passengers, many who wait for the buses in cold winter temperatures.

Mountain Line standardized all bus signage this summer to improve visibility. Each bus is currently equipped with a triangular “Yield to the Bus” sign that can be illuminated by the driver. They also have a large reflective arrow banner, which points to the sign, alerting drivers following the bus.

“This year we standardized all of the banners with a bright yellow, highly-reflective and durable material, designed to show up well in all weather and light conditions.” Pfeiffer said.

In addition to the public campaign, Mountain Line is working with the Missoula Police Department to increase awareness and enforcement.