Mar 19, 2012 10:17 AM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX/KAJ Media Center)
MISSOULA- Mountain Line managers say they're ready to discuss a pair of proposed alternatives that would change local bus service and result in a ridership increases of up to 14%.
Mountain Line and its consultants have been working on the proposed short range plans since last October, with an eye toward increasing efficiency, but also improving the service to reach more riders throughout Missoula.
Public workshops were held last fall and now consultants are ready to present their recommendations in additional public meetings this week.The proposed changes boil down to four different alternatives.
The first, called "Business as Usual" would make adjustments to improve "on time" performance and overloads, adjusting several routes and eliminating Route 10, which runs out Mullan Road to the old Smurfit Stone site altogether because of low ridership.
The "Service Efficiency Alternative" would improve service on core routes in the heart of the city and to destinations like the University of Montana campus, looking for consistent schedule times. It would also eliminate Route 10 service out Mullan Road, as well as Route 9, which swings through the Target Range neighborhoods.
The "Focus Inward Alternative" would put the emphasis on service to the routes with the highest volumes on the major travel corridors and destinations like UM. However, that would chop service to not only Target Range and Mullan Road, but also East Missoula to Bonner, the Rattlesnake, North Reserve to the Airport and Route 12, which runs from downtown into the South Hills. A fourth option would save those routes as well as the main service improvements, but at the cost of more than $900,000 per year.
Consultants say the first three options could be done at no additional cost.
Three workshops are being held this week to gather public input on the ideas. The first will be at the University Center Wednesday, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. The second will be at the Western Montana Fairgrounds that evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The third and final hearing will be Thursday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the downtown Holiday Inn.
Mountain Line managers hope to have the final plans in place after they have a chance to analyze input from the workshops, as well as written comment. Click here to read the alternatives report (pdf).