(Missoula Current) Ridership on Mountain Line's fixed routes has increased more than 20% since launching seven-day service his summer, including nights.

The agency provided more than 220,400 rides on its fixed-route service in April through June of this year. That jumped to 267,170 rides this July through September. The increase marks a 21% jump.

“It’s fantastic to see Missoulians using the long-requested later-evening and expanded weekend service,” said Corey Aldridge, Mountain Line CEO and general manager. “This increase in ridership reinforces that Mountain Line is essential, valued and widely used.”

According to Mountain Line, it saw a 9% increase in average weekday ridership and a 59% increase in average ridership on Saturdays. The new Sunday service also saw around 1,320 rider trips per day.

Mountain Line said it also compared fixed-route ridership from August and September of 2021 compared to the same period in 2022. The results reflected an increase in ridership of 35%.

The agency is working with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to transform Brooks Street into a center-running bus rapid-transit corridor.

“Mountain Line benefits us all by helping students get to school, employees get to work and seniors and those living with disabilities remain mobile and active,” said Aldridge. “Even those who don’t ride benefit from reduced traffic congestion, decreased parking demand, cleaner air and a healthier, more equitable community.”

Aldridge said the July service expansion was a direct response to public input gathered during Mountain Line’s strategic planning process. In 2020, voters approved the agency’s service-expansion initiative by a 20% margin.

While the timeline for service expansions was impacted by the national labor shortage in 2021, the agency successfully grew from 58 employees in 2021 to 100 in 2022, allowing the expansion to take place, Aldridge said.