Skyline Bus Expanding to West Yellowstone

A Skyline bus in route to Big Sky zooms by on Main Street in Bozeman in this undated photo.

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For the first time ever, Gallatin County commissioners voted Wednesday to provide money for a bus service between Bozeman and Big Sky.

Skyline has made budget requests for the last seven years, but never had any funding approved by the Gallatin County Commission.

After grilling Skyline coordinator David Kack, who was asking for $75,000 during a budget meeting Wednesday, Commissioners Don Seifert and Joe Skinner approved a one-time $50,000 expenditure for new buses. Commissioner Steve White voted no.

The county had recently approved $30,000 to pay for a Big Sky Chamber of Commerce transportation study and contributed $50,000 to the Gallatin River Task Force for a water resource development plan. So White said he would only approve $20,000, based on a personal $100,000 cap for county funds going to Big Sky.

“I would just as soon lower taxes across the county than put money into buses,” White said.

But Seifert and Skinner were convinced. Seifert said he did not want to be helping fund a ski bus. But Kack told him a survey showed 59 percent of riders were laborers commuting to their Big Sky jobs from the Gallatin Valley.

Kack said the money would be used to fulfill the 20 percent match needed to acquire three new buses through a federal grant program. The money would have otherwise come from Skyline’s operating budget, Kack said, and that with the new buses, Skyline would save money by relying less on vehicle rentals from Karst Stage.

“I want to be clear, this is a one-time deal,” Skinner told him.

Earlier in the budget process this summer, commissioners unanimously denied a $200,000 request for Skyline operations money.

Skyline receives half of its annual budget from the Federal Transit Administration. The rest of its budget comes from the Big Sky area resort tax, Big Sky Owners Association, Big Sky Resort, Madison County, Moonlight Basin, Spanish Peaks Resort and the Yellowstone Club.

Kack told the Chronicle that with the county money, Skyline may be able to add a bus during peak operations in the winter.

“This is a unique opportunity to leverage county money,” Seifert said. “The folks at Big Sky, that whole area up there is an economic driver for this valley.”

David Kack speaks to county commission

Skyline bus coordinator David Kack, right, asks the Gallatin County Commission for budget support on Wednesday, August 10. On a 2-1 vote, the commission approved $50,000 in one-time funds for the bus service that connects Bozeman and Big Sky.

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Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or tcarter@dailychronicle.com. He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.

Troy Carter covers politics and county government for the Chronicle.

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