The spring air may be even fresher this year with record numbers of Missoulians continuing to ride the bus. With Earth Week in full swing, Mountain Line, Missoula’s community bus service, is celebrating their busiest month ever with 128,385 rides provided in March 2016, a new one-month ridership record. The agency also set records in January and February as the Zero-fare demonstration project continues to set milestones. The numbers continue to increase, but Mountain Line believes the increases in ridership only tell part of the story.
“Mountain Line is thrilled to see this ridership growth and we want to emphasize the benefits to our shared environment, as well as the real lives touched by this program,” said Andrea Davis, chair of the Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD) board of directors, which operates Mountain Line. “More people are riding the bus and that means fewer vehicles on the road, less carbon and pollution in the atmosphere, and better air quality for everyone in our community,” she said.
In addition to the environmental benefits, Davis says Zero-fare is changing individual lives by making it easier and cheaper than ever to get around Missoula, expanding accessibility and mobility for everyone in the community.
“We’re hearing from teachers who are using the bus for field trips, parents in one-car households who are getting their kids to more activities, and seniors who no longer miss medical appointments due to living on a fixed income. Records numbers are great to see, but these are real lives being changed for the better,” Davis added.
Mountain Line has seen fifteen straight months of record growth due to the agency’s three-year Zero-Fare demonstration project that began January 2015. In addition to a record-breaking March, Mountain Line saw 107,763 riders in January and 122,985 in February, the highest January and February ridership in agency history. Overall, ridership has increased 40 percent since the project started.
Mountain Line’s Zero-fare demonstration project is made possible by fifteen community partner organizations. The groups are helping to meet the cost of fares for the duration of the project.
Mountain Line’s fifteen Zero-fare partners include the University of Montana, Associated Students of the University of Montana, City of Missoula, County of Missoula, the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization, St. Patrick Hospital, Community Medical Center, Missoula County Public Schools, Missoula Aging Services, Missoula Downtown Association, Missoula Parking Commission, the Missoulian Newspaper, Southgate Mall, Homeword, and newest partner, Destination Missoula. Before Zero-fare, several of these businesses and groups purchased bus passes for students or their employees to ride fare-free. Because of their investment, these benefits are now extended to all Missoulians.
“When more people ride the bus, our whole community benefits,” Davis added. “Earth Week is the perfect time to celebrate the positive changes public transit can bring to a community, especially with our Zero-fare initiative removing barriers to more sustainable transportation options.”
Mountain Line will be celebrating Earth Day this Saturday, April 23 from 12pm-5pm in Caras Park at the Missoula Urban Demonstration Project’s 10th annual Earth Day Celebration and 5K Race. The event features live music, local food and beverages, and Earth-themed exhibits from Missoula-area organizations. Stop at the Mountain Line table for route information, prizes, and more.