Numbers show Streamline not as successful as billed

By JESSE POWELL/Montana State News

Streamline, Gallatin County and Associated Students of Montana State University co-sponsored option for free public transportation, is often referred to as an alternative to Montana State University’s over-crowding parking lots. A Nov. 12 article from the Bozeman Chronicle touted Streamline’s millionth ride after five years of operation.

“I think it is an excellent deal for the 15 dollar fee I pay each semester,” Sam Sharpels said from the desk at the SUB recreation center where he works. Last semester, he rode the Streamline to and from school (nine blocks) without a problem. When asked about the negativity some express about the bus system, he replied, “Don’t knock it till you try it! You’ll be surprised how much money you save.” This statement dovetails with Streamline’s online message by including a fuel savings calculator on

Why then do so few ride the bus?

Having had one million riders since its inception in 2006 averages to 3,773 rides per week on the Streamline. At first this is an impressive number, but when all the buses, routes and stops are calculated, the entire system averages 2.43 stops before picking up a rider. The maximum capacity during the work week (five buses) is 125 riders per stop. That means the service is operating at to 1.9 percent of capacity.

Abe Michael, an international student stranded at MSU and waiting for his uncle to pick him up had this to say: “I have a class that gets out at 6 on the dot. I’ll get over here (to the SUB) by 6:04 and the last bus is gone.” Abe has used buses in England and Nigeria. Even with no cost he only grades Streamline “OK.”

The cost calculator uses miles and fuel to calculate savings but those who would save the most (living in Belgrade for example) have the least bus service. On Jan. 2 Streamline released a notice that “Buses will no longer wait at Transfer Stations for another bus that is running too far behind schedule.” What the calculator fails to use and perhaps the reason for the low capacity, are the opportunity costs.

Edited by Brianna Schultz.

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