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Mountain Line: Access to affordable transportation key to Missoula’s growth

Jesse Dodson, Chairman of the Board for Missoula Urban Transportation District

As Missoula grows, it is critical that everyone in our community has access to affordable, reliable transportation. That’s why, following the remarkable success of Mountain Line’s Zero-Fare program, Mountain Line began looking for additional ways to improve our transit service and benefit the community.

As part of Mountain Line’s extensive community outreach efforts during our 2018 strategic plan update, we heard time and time again from Missoulians who strongly desire increased service, especially expanded service on evenings and weekends.

Mountain Line is now ready to make major steps toward realizing the goals outlined in our strategic plan by implementing seven-day and seven-night service. Funding for this enhanced service will be on the ballot this November for voters within the Missoula Urban Transportation District.

Mountain Line is asking for a mill levy investment of 20 mills, raising approximately $3 million annually. This funding will allow Mountain Line to:

  • Expand weekend service, including adding Sunday bus service for the first time.
  • Increase bus frequency on heavily used routes.
  • Add additional early-morning and late-evening service.
  • Enhance our Zero-Fare program.
  • Support the conversion of our fleet from diesel to electric to meet our 2035 zero-tailpipe-emissions goal.

These service expansions will also benefit seniors and people with disabilities who use Mountain Line’s Paratransit and Shuttle Van services.

The main source of operations funding for Mountain Line has been its perpetual mill levy. Since the creation of the Missoula Urban Transportation District in 1976, Mountain Line has sought voter approval to increase its operating mill levy only once, in 2013. Within the last five years, ridership has grown by approximately 70 percent. Ridership is now averaging 1.5 million rides annually, putting aside the temporary reduction in ridership due to the pandemic.

A reliable public transit system helps employees get to work, students get to school, and those with limited resources gain access to health care and homes they can afford. It supports connectivity between Missoula’s business community, which in turn substantially benefits our local economy.

Mountain Line itself is an employer whose employees are dedicated to keeping our service running safely and smoothly. Mountain Line also contributes to local and regional transportation planning efforts and creates opportunities for investment of federal dollars in our local community.

More people riding the bus equates to reduced traffic congestion, shorter commute times, improved air quality, and a healthier community as more people choose active transportation.

All these things help make Missoula a more livable, equitable, and prosperous community. For all these reasons and more, we believe that everyone in our community benefits from Mountain Line’s services, not just those who ride the bus. The mill levy on the November ballot will allow Mountain Line to enhance our investment in these services as our community grows.

Learn more about the mill levy and planned service improvements at www.mountainline.com/mill-levy.

Jesse Dodson, Chairman of the Board for Missoula Urban Transportation District