By Bay Stephens EBS STAFF WRITER
BIG SKY – The Big Sky Transportation District has partnered with the Big Sky Community Organization to seek funds from the state to make a portion of the planned community center in Big Sky Town Center a transit hub with indoor space for passengers awaiting buses.
The transportation district board, which has access to annual funding from Montana Department of Transportation for capital projects like buses and bus facilities, agreed in a Feb. 20 meeting to apply for approximately $225,000 to contribute to the community center for which BSCO is currently raising funds. If granted, the funds would allow a warm place and public restrooms for bus users as well as partially relieve fundraising pressure for BSCO and the community.
“From BSCO’s perspective, we’re just trying to leverage outside funds to get whatever we can [for the community center],” BSCO Executive Director Ciara Wolfe said at the meeting. She added that the funds would not make or break the project but would help keep money in the pockets of Big Sky community members as BSCO prepares to launch a community campaign for the project.
The bus stop along Ousel Falls Road in Town Center serves as a transfer point for many bus users traveling from Big Sky Resort to Meadow Village Center or Bozeman. However, late-night riders don’t have warm places to wait for buses except in nearby bars and restaurants. The transit hub stands to remedy that by giving these passengers access to a 1,900-square-foot lobby with couches and chairs open to the public, as well as restrooms.
The transit hub would have vehicle pullouts to accommodate Skyline’s large 35-passenger buses and shift the bus routes to allow those heading up the mountain to make safer left-hand turns.
Envisioned as a future hub for Big Sky’s trail system, Wolfe said she hopes the community center will facilitate local use of public transportation instead of personal vehicles.
Transportation district looks to expand boundary
The transportation district is also seeking to add a boundary expansion onto the next ballot.
The expanded boundary would match that of the Big Sky Resort Area District and better reflect the service area of the public transit services, transportation district coordinator David Kack wrote in an email to EBS. The current transportation district boundary was established in 1991 when Big Sky was far smaller, he added.
Kack said aligning the two boundaries makes sense because the resort tax board is the largest source of local matching funds for the transportation district and, as was discussed at the Dec. 5 Eggs and Issues hosted by the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, the more that the unincorporated area’s slew of special districts share boundaries, the better.
A copy of the petition states: “There is no cost to expanding the boundaries of the District, as there are currently no property taxes levied to support the Big Sky Transportation District.”
To be on the next ballot, 20 percent of the registered voters living in the area to be added must sign the petition: 150 people from the Gallatin County side and 75 from the Madison side who don’t reside in the transportation district but are part of the resort tax district.
“Signing the petition isn’t saying you are for or against expanding district boundaries, only that you want to have the vote,” Kack said.
Petitions can be found at BSCO, Big Sky Owners Association, Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, and Lone Mountain Land Company, along with a list of registered voters who live outside the current transportation district boundaries, but inside the resort tax district boundary.