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Making it in Big Sky: Big Sky Transportation District

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By Mira Brody CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGIST

David Kack has been working with the Big Sky Transportation District since Skyline was known as the seasonal-only ski shuttle, the Snow Express. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID KACK

BIG SKY – If someone has lived in Big Sky long enough to remember the Snow Express, it is current Big Sky Transportation District Coordinator David Kack. In fact, he helped with the analysis of that project that eventually evolved into today’s Skyline Bus service that transports residents and visitors alike between Bozeman and Big Sky year-round.

In part, it was Kack’s work with the Montana Department of Transportation that made these services possible, as he advocated for funding from the Federal Transit Administration to make year-round transit a reality. Explore Big Sky spoke with Kack about his role over the years as he transitions out of the district and prepares for a move to Nashville, Tennessee in September.

This series is part of a paid partnership with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. The following answers have been edited for brevity.

Explore Big Sky: I’d like to start with a little background information on you. What brought you to Big Sky?

David Kack: I grew up in Bozeman when my family moved there in 1976. I graduated from Bozeman High in 1983, and didn’t move back to Bozeman until 2001. I was working at the Western Transportation Institute in 2003 when Meg O’Leary from the Big Sky Transportation District Board asked us, WTI, to help with an analysis of the Snow Express service (as the service was known back then). I’ve been working with the Big Sky Transportation District (and in Big Sky) since then.

EBS: Tell me about the history of the Skyline Bus/Big Sky Transportation District: why was it formed?

D.K.: The Big Sky Transportation District was formed in 1991. The transit system that began, the Snow Express, operated from roughly mid-December to mid-April to move skiers other visitors, and employees, around in Big Sky. In December 2006, the service was rebranded as Skyline, and the system became a year-round public transportation system, which not only had service within Big Sky, but between Big Sky and Bozeman.

“It is wonderful that people recognize the value of the Transportation District and its Skyline services, and want to tell us that while we do a great job, that there are ways we could improve our services. We know that as the Big Sky community grows, that we will have to grow our services as well.”

David Kack, Big Sky Transportation District Coordinator

EBS: How and when did you become involved?

D.K.: In 2003, Meg O’Leary, from the Big Sky Transportation District Board, asked the Western Transportation Institute to conduct an analysis of the Snow Express service to see if any changes needed to be made. I had about three years of transit experience at the time, but was able to conduct the analysis and recommend a few changes to the schedule. In 2006, I recommended to the district’s board to work with the Montana Department of Transportation and apply for funding from the Federal Transit Administration.

In December 2006 the Skyline system began operating, offering year-round transit service within Big Sky, and between Big Sky and Bozeman. I’ve been working with the District for nearly 20 years now. However, Darren Brugmann is now taking over the reins of the Transportation District as its first Executive Director. While I’ll be supporting Darren for the next year during the transition, I’ll be stepping into the background, and I am actually moving to Nashville, Tennessee in September.

EBS: Tell me about the different services the Transportation District offers the Big Sky community?

D.K.: The district offers two main services to the community, the “local service” which provides rides within the Big Sky community, and the “intercity service” which connects Big Sky to Bozeman, with stops in Gallatin Gateway and Four Corners. The local service operates all the way from the Rainbow Ranch/Corral area up to the Moonlight area (including the Madison Base). The intercity service helps those who commute from the greater Bozeman area to Big Sky for work. The intercity service can save people a significant amount of money on their commute. We also work with the Yellowstone Club to offer a vanpool service for their employees. Finally, we are working with most of the major employers to offer a program to help employees carpool, through the Go Gallatin initiative.

EBS: How have these services changed and grown over the years?

D.K.: With more and more people commuting to Big Sky, we’ve tried to increase the amount of our service between Big Sky and Bozeman, and during the winter season, we are operating nearly 24-hours a day. During the winter of 2020-2021, our first bus departed Bozeman at 4:30 a.m., and the last bus left Big Sky at 2:15 a.m., arriving in Bozeman at 4:00 a.m. So, we had buses operating almost continuously during the winter season.

EBS: What is the best part of working at the Transportation District?

D.K.: Interacting with all of the great people in Big Sky! As a public transportation system, we value the input of all of those who ride the system, or others who have suggestions for us. It is wonderful that people recognize the value of the Transportation District and its Skyline services and want to tell us that while we do a great job, that there are ways we could improve our services. We know that as the Big Sky community grows, that we will have to grow our services as well.

EBS: What is the best business advice you have ever received?

D.K.: Your job is never over, because as the community changes, you have to change along with the community.

EBS: Anything else you would like to let the community know about the work you and your team do?

D.K.: It is truly satisfying to work with folks from the Big Sky Resort Area District, Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, Big Sky Community Organization, Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Basin, Yellowstone Club, and all the other individuals and organizations that care about Big Sky and how we, the Transportation District, can have a positive impact on the community.

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