Nearly every city faces difficult choices when designing a public transit network for the future and Missoula is no different. Bus ridership is now at an all-time high thanks to Mountain Line’s Zero-fare initiative and recent service enhancements. The agency is seeking community input as they begin an update to their Strategic Plan, a 30-year guiding document for future transit investment.
“Mountain Line benefits us all in Missoula by getting employees to work, students to school, and keeping seniors and those with disabilities active and mobile. It’s our community bus service, so it’s important that we involve the community in our planning process,” said Corey Aldridge, Mountain Line General Manager. “There are difficult choices we have to make on what types of service we can provide on a fixed budget, so we’re asking the community to give us some input.”
Mountain Line recently launched an online survey to ask for community input on some of the tradeoffs that arise in transit planning for Missoula. The survey is open until May 19 and can be found at www.mountainline.com/strategicplan2017. As an incentive, anyone who completes the survey will be entered into a drawing to win one of three $25 Missoula Downtown Association gift cards. Mountain Line is also distributing the survey via email, social media, and other community networks. On the webpage, in addition to the Community Survey, visitors can also download and view a copy of the Choices Report, which describes the current state of Missoula’s public transit system and outlines the difficult decisions Mountain Line faces in designing a system that reflects the values and priorities of the community.
Mountain Line is operated by the Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD) and the MUTD Board of Directors has the final say in the agency’s direction. The Strategic Plan is updated every few years and the last process occurred in 2012.
In addition to the Community Survey, Mountain Line also convened a Stakeholder Committee to assist in designing alternatives for the update. The Stakeholder Committee is composed of residents, business owners, professionals, and representatives of populations that depend on transit, among others.
“We tried to cast as wide a net as possible in forming our committee,” said Aldridge. “We have people and organizations representing neighborhoods close to the urban core and from more suburban areas. We have people whose interests are primarily environmental or social and people who are focused more on commerce. We’re also pleased to have input from those representing our veterans, the disability community, seniors, non-English speakers and many other groups.”
The Stakeholder Committee will meet several times over the coming months to help Mountain Line evaluate a pair of alternatives that illustrate a key choice for the future. The alternatives will be brought to the Committee and to the public for comment this summer. Input on the alternatives will be used to create the final plan, which the Missoula Urban Transportation District Board of Directors may adopt in Fall 2017.