(Missoula Current) Mountain Line on Tuesday said a persistent staffing shortage has prompted it to modify service on several bus routes, at least temporarily.

The transit agency said routes 8 and 12 would run hourly rather than at 30-minute intervals during peak hours, which includes the morning and evening hours.

That would allow 10 employee hours each day to be reallocated to relieve what the agency described as a strain on its current workforce.

The change took effect on Monday.

“The last thing we want to do is cut service,” said Jennifer Sweten, the director of operations. “We tried to hold off as long as we could. But with so many employees out sick during flu season, and a continuing labor shortage, we just had no choice but to relieve the pressure on our current operators.”

Mountain Line said additional modifications that affect Routes 1 and 2 will begin on April 16. Those routes will operate on 20-minute schedules rather than 15 minutes.

The service reductions are expected to last for around three months, and possibly throughout the summer. No other changes are currently planned.

“Mountain Line has been actively recruiting new bus operators, with a new class to begin training on April 17,” the agency said. “In the meantime, temporarily modifying schedules allows the company to continue service without overburdening bus operators and dispatchers.”

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