People commuting from Missoula to Lolo have only one option—drop a wad of cash on gas and drive up Highway 93. But Mountain Line bus service is eyeing a pilot program that could expand service to the Bitterroot.
"When you look down Highway 93 at 7, 7:30 in the morning you see a significant amount of traffic," says Mountain Line General Manager Steve Earle. "I'd say there's no question that it's necessary."
The historic roadblock to the Lolo route has always been money. To help demonstrate demand—and, in turn, secure additional funding—Mountain Line is asking commuters to fill out an online survey posted on its website.
"The service is realistic, if the demand is there," Earle says.
Mountain Line representatives presented an early proposal of the service to the Lolo Community Council last week. In the future, Earle says he aims to provide roundtrip weekday commuter express bus service from Missoula to Lolo four times daily.
Devin Jackson, vice chairman of the Lolo Community Council, says there's a mounting need for bus service in the area. With Lolo tacking on thousands of new residents over the past decade, many commute back and forth to large Missoula employers like the University of Montana and Community Medical Center. The area also lacks a high school, meaning students involved in extracurricular activities who stay after school—and after regular school buses leave—are often left wanting for a way back home.
"The higher gas prices go, the more people from out here want to find another alternative," Jackson says, who adds that the Lolo Community Council has drafted a letter of support for Mountain Line's proposal.
In the meantime, Earle asks people to tell Mountain Line what they think by filling out the transportation survey at mountainline.com.
"We'll take all the input we can get," he says.