Transportation 

Mountain Line eyes changes

Should Mountain Line devote more resources to satisfy the commuter needs of late-night club-goers by running buses later? Or is catering to those living on the outskirts of town a better idea? Those are among the questions transportation officials will ask locals next week as they kick off a series of forums that will help chart the future of public transportation in Missoula.

"You need to say something," says Mountain Line General Manager Michael Tree, who's hit the pavement this month to give Missoulians a heads-up that potentially significant changes could be on deck for Mountain Line.

Mountain Line, along with its oversight body, the Missoula Urban Transportation District, is hosting a series of workshops beginning Oct. 26 that will enable locals to weigh in on, among other things, whether they'd like to see streetcar service in Missoula and what kind of bus routes and schedules they'd like in the coming years. "That's going to change the lives of thousands of people," Tree says.

Public transit has come a long way since 1977, when Mountain Line launched with four used buses that served three routes. Missoula's transit system now runs 12 routes. They offer free Wi-Fi and take locals across a 36-square-mile area.

Expanding service enables more Missoulians to forego their cars and commute by bus. In 1978, public transit provided 98,593 rides. Last year that number grew to 865,601.

After next week's workshops, a consultant hired by Mountain Line will itemize future service options. The public will have a chance to vet those options during another round of meetings slated for January. Based on those recommendations, Tree aims to start making changes to service by next summer.

For more information on the workshops, go to www.mountainline.com.

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