By KAITLYN NICHOLAS and SCOTT PHELAN/Montana State News
The number of riders on the Streamline bus service increased by 16.2 percent between 2011 and 2013 and annual ridership has nearly quadrupled since its inception in 2006.
“We’ve just grown by leaps and bounds,” said Lee Hazelbaker, the director of Streamline.
The Streamline bus system offers free transportation around Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley. According to Streamline’s 2013 Fiscal Year Ridership Report, buses served 282,776 people during 2013, a 16.2 percent increase over their ridership in 2011. The bus system originally began in the fall of 2006 and served 75,868 people in its first year.
“Now we start earlier and run later. We added the weekend service and the Livingston service,” said Hazelbaker. “It has just become more popular and we’ve made some adjustments to the schedule to meet people’s needs.”
“I’ve been riding Streamline for nearly three years now and I’ve certainly noticed more people,” said Montana State University student William Spiller. “I’ve also found it much easier to ride and find routes.”
Spiller suggested that the reason behind Streamline’s growth is a simple one: “Parking. We all know how parking on campus is a nightmare. It’s much easier to catch a free bus to the Student Union than pay hundreds of dollars to park way out by the football stadium.”
Missoula’s Mountain Line bus system offers similar services—routes throughout the city of Missoula—for a small fee to riders. Typical riders pay $1, minors pay 35 cents, seniors pay 50 cents and University of Montana students ride free. The Mountain Line system served over 900,000 riders during 2012 according to their most current records.
However, the Streamline intends to continue making changes to allow more people to ride. “We’re hoping to expand service,” Hazelbaker said. “We’re looking at the possibility of a Sunday service and adding more routes in town during the week.”
Hazelbaker stated that the bus system will remain free to the public as long as it is administered by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC).
Streamline officials hope to implement changes soon in order to continue to grow ridership.
“We’re looking at a lot of different options so we can grow,” said Hazelbaker. “We will have more than 300,000 riders in the fiscal year we’re in right now.”