Streamline

A Streamline bus picks up and drops off passengers at the downtown depot in this 2019 file photo.

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The Streamline bus system plans to implement new routes in the coming months, the first time service has been updated in more than a decade.

The bus service plans to add more service to the west side of Bozeman and increase weekend service.

Streamline, which is operated by the Human Resource Development Council, first formed 15 years ago. The service’s transportation director, Sunshine Ross, said the routes have not been updated since then.

One additional route will connect Gallatin and Bozeman high schools with the Senior Center, the under-construction Public Safety Center and downtown.

HRDC added the route specifically to reach west Bozeman, Ross said.

“It connects the west side of town which has seen a lot of development and quickly became what we in the industry term a ‘transit desert,’” Ross said. “So we wanted to provide service there.”

Other new routes include one that connects MSU with downtown, Walmart and Target shopping areas. Another will connect the Gallatin Valley Mall, downtown and Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. A third route will go from MSU to the Gallatin Valley Mall and west Bozeman, and a fourth route will connect Belgrade with N. 7th Avenue.

HRDC is looking to implement the new routes in August. The bus service is also making the routes bidirectional rather than loops, Ross said.

“We were trying to cover a lot of area as best we could so that resulted in a lot of loops in the routes, which means ... it may take you five minutes to get to your destination but on the return trip it might take 40 minutes,” Ross said.

HRDC is planning for increased service on the weekends. Ross said the same routes will run both Saturday and Sunday. The organization also wants to install new, bigger bus stop signs, Ross said.

The additional routes and increased weekend service will require more funding, Ross said. Montana State University students voted earlier this year to increase fees contributing to the service.

The Board of Regents approved the fee increase during a meeting this week.

HRDC is also looking to establish an urban transportation district in the area, which would need voter approval and would increase potential funding. During a presentation to the city commission earlier this month, Ross said Great Falls and Missoula have long used urban transportation districts for their public transit.

Forming one is a big lift and requires a lot of public support. Getting the measure on the ballot requires signatures from 20% of all registered voters in the district’s boundaries, but Ross said HRDC would shoot for a higher percentage to account for any signatures that might be invalidated.

Ross said the formation vote is required to happen during a May special election, when school board elections take place.

HRDC may also push for a mill levy vote to fund transportation projects through the district, which Ross said would happen during a separate election.

An urban transportation district would also be able to receive funds that HRDC, a nonprofit, is limited from getting.

“It really will help us with the long-term plan and implement that. It will help service expansion as the community grows and helps us increase frequency and really respond to the community,” Ross said. “It also opens up other funding opportunities for us.”

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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