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Mountain Line's "Zero Fare" renewing for another three years - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Mountain Line's "Zero Fare" renewing for another three years

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MISSOULA - Administrators of Missoula's Mountain Line public transit system say the revolutionary Zero Fare program will be continued for another three years, with partner agencies all agreeing to extend support. 

The decision comes after strong support has been shown for Zero Fare -- which has given a dramatic, 60% increase in ridership.

"We found that the ridership increased tremendously, going from 9-hundred thousand rides to over 1.5 million rides," said Mountain Line Transit General Manager Corey Aldridge.

When Mountain Line staff and directors came up with Zero Fare, they hoped for a ridership bump, but everyone was surprised how successful it was, increasing ridership by regular users and also convincing more people to use the bus. 

For partners like the University of Montana, St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center, Missoula Downtown Association and others, it's been a worthwhile investment.

"You know, their goal is to get their citizens and their clients around the community, so that they can get to the services and the things that they do need, which this allows them to do. And it does help with traffic congestion and parking, in the downtown area especially," Aldridge said.

"With the partners agreeing for another three years we have another three year window that we will have the program. And at the end of that three years we will revisit it again to see if we want to continue," Aldridge added.

Transit systems always look for ways to reduce reliance on the fare box, since those revenues are only a small percentage of what it takes to actually run a transit system. But Mountain Line is one of only a handful which have hit on the right formula.

"That makes us very unique as a community. There are probably one or two systems in the U.S. besides ourselves that do this.," Aldridge said.

With Mountain Line celebrating its 40th anniversary later on this year, system administrators say they want to launch a new campaign see if they can get more businesses to jump on board and support Zero Fare.

"Yeah, we're going to kick it off with having a party. And we're also going to have a campaign, a "40 for 40". We want to get more Zero Fare partners and our goal is to get 40-partners," Aldridge told MTN News.

At the same time Mountain Line implemented Zero Fare, it also went through a major reorganization of routes to cut operational costs. 

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