By Eric Clements, August 12, 2014
MISSOULA - Missoula's public bus service is about to be a little easier on the wallet.
The Missoula Urban Transportation District has announced the
Zero-Fare demonstration project, which will last at least three years.
Beginning on Jan. 5, Missoula will join nearly 40 other U.S. cities running zero-fare transit. The move is a response to community partners requests for a three-year, zero-fare testing phase for Mountain Line.
The community partners - including the University of Montana,
Missoula Aging Services and the Missoula Downtown Association - will
help fund the project.
Missoula Urban Transportation District general manager Michael Tree
says public transportation ridership increases significantly in cities
where it is implemented. It expected the program will increase ridership by 45%, reduce operating costs, and speed-up boarding times.
"The fact is, it's free - It's as easy as it could possibly be, and
when you combine that with the new schedules, the new availability, the
frequency of service, the bus is no longer an alternative means of
transportation." Missoula Mayor John Engen said. "For a lot of folks, it
can become a primary means of transportation."
In addition to the three-year zero-fare period, Mountain Line will
extend services until 10 p.m. on its four most popular routes, as well
as improve door-to-door service for senior and disabled passengers.