Officials hope to better integrate Bozeman and Big Sky bus routes with service overlap in Four Corners
By Hudson Willett EDITORIAL INTERN
Bozeman’s Human Resource Development Council is one of 47 agencies nationwide recently selected for special funding from the Federal Transit Administration.
The HRDC of Bozeman received a federal grant of $451,500 through the FTA’s Areas of Persistent Poverty Program. The grant will be used to improve Bozeman’s Streamline Bus, the city’s primary public transportation network.
“In Bozeman, there are multiple areas that are defined as Areas of Persistent Poverty. Community members in these low-income areas often face challenges in accessing affordable and reliable transportation,” stated Sunshine Ross, Bozeman HRDC transportation director, in a July 26 press release.
The HRDC is Montana’s first-ever recipient of a special grant from the FTA, the release states. The state requested funds on behalf of Bozeman HRDC. The FTA had $20 million in available grant money but faced requests totaling $36 million across the country, according to Ross.
As for the grant’s practical use, the release stated: “HRDC will use the $451,500 in awarded funds to develop a long-term financing plan for Streamline and to conduct a comprehensive route planning analysis. The route planning analysis will integrate climate change, racial equity, and environmental justice considerations into the design of future public transit routes in Bozeman.”
This grant supports HRDC’s goal to facilitate responsible growth by offering opportunities for everyone to get around Bozeman, relieving traffic congestion, improving air quality and lessening parking pressure, the press release added.
Ross spoke with EBS about HRDC’s successful pursuit of the federal grant.
“This grant will contribute to our long-term transit development plan, which is about three years in the making,” Ross said. “There is a lot that goes into that, like communicating with surrounding areas, such as Livingston, West Yellowstone and Ennis. It also involves adding routes, therefore needing new employees and low- or no-emission buses. We just want to get a good and organized idea of our plan before presenting it for the public.”
Connecting with Big Sky
As Big Sky community leaders explore ways to reduce vehicle traffic between Big Sky and Bozeman, improvements to Streamline might improve connectivity and motivate more workers and visitors to travel via bus.
“We (Streamline) also have a close working relationship with the Big Sky Transportation District board and Skyline Bus—we operate in the same district. Part of our new plan and grant funding will involve Four Corners, which involves Big Sky [bus service]. We will continue communicating and working together through the transit planning,” Ross said shortly after attending Thursday’s Big Sky Transportation District meeting.
Ennion Williams, board chair of the Big Sky Transportation District, told EBS that connectivity at Four Corners between Skyline and Streamline buses could improve efficiency.
“Having Skyline and Streamline coordinate a more efficient system from Four Corners, in and out of Bozeman is our goal,” Williams said. Williams also works for Outlaw Partners, publisher of EBS.
The press release stated two facts from the American Public Transit Association: first, for every $1 spent on public transportation, $5 is fed into the local economy; second, for the environment, communities with strong public transit reduce national carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons yearly.
“This grant will enable us to strengthen the community by forging better connections and enhancing the overall quality of life for our residents,” stated Heather Grenier, HRDC’s CEO in the release.