Missoula is proving that something can be done about high gas prices, according to Senator Max Baucus. The city is doing its part to develop public transportation and embrace alternative fuels in a state where residents think nothing of driving long distances to recreate or visit family.
“We’re not a seaport state or a barge state, we’re a highway state,” Baucus said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which he performed with Mountain Line board of directors chairwoman Debra Parker. “We’re really all connected by our transit system.”
The state’s mass-transit system is set to expand, Lynch added. Currently, Montana operates 12 rural bus systems, but that number is expected to triple in the next few years – an expansion made possible by dramatic increases in transportation spending by the state.
Mountain Line provides about 730,000 rides a year with 20 fixed-route and seven para-transit buses, and ridership is steadily increasing, Earle said.
“It’s increased 6 percent just in the last year,” Earle said.
The new 35-foot Gillig Phantom buses will replace five 12-year-old buses that, with 500,000 miles each, have reached the end of their life span, he added. The new buses run on B20, a fuel mixture using 20 percent biodiesel.