Streamline Bus

A Streamline bus waits at a stop sign Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 9, 2019, on South Ferguson Avenue.

Bozeman’s bus routes have pretty much stayed the same over the last decade, even as more people, streets and houses have arrived. An upcoming study will look at how the town’s public transportation could reach more people.

Tracy Menuez, Human Resource Development Council’s associate director, said it has been about 14 years since the nonprofit overhauled its Streamline Transit routes.

“Obviously a lot has changed since, almost that entire northwest side of Bozeman didn’t exist,” Menuez said.

This week, Transportation Management & Design, Inc., the consultants tasked with the study, arrived in Bozeman for a first site visit.

Menuez said the plan is to understand how routes could improve with the resources HRDC has and how it could shift in the future with the area’s needs.

HRDC president Heather Grenier said the nonprofit’s community assessment continues to reflect people need more ways to get around Gallatin County.

She said most of the system’s expansion has been in how many hours Streamline buses run. The system added weekends to its service in recent years and boosted how many times buses stop on popular routes.

But Grenier said there are gaps.

“We’re not serving the majority,” Grenier said. “As the valley grows we need to be proactive, have regional connections. It’s really a shift in that thought process of not being so Bozeman centered.”

She said part of the study will include how the system could adapt if Bozeman’s population grows beyond 50,000 in the next U.S. Census count. That population would move Streamline into a different pool of federal funding that would also come with new rules and expectations.

The money for the study came in part from the nonprofit’s reserves, Gallatin County, the city of Bozeman and Montana State University, which pays toward the routes each year for students.

Ron Kilcoyne, senior manager with Transportation Management & Design, said this week he met with Bozeman health providers, city and county officials and major businesses like the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

“I heard a lot of, it takes a long time to get anywhere on the bus. There’s a desire for service to run more often,” Kilcoyne said.

He said people asked about connecting Bozeman to Belgrade and further, how to have enough buses and routes to carry more people and whether a bus route could arrive at the airport.

He said as the study begins, the consultants will gather data on bus use and soon release a survey to learn more about what riders want from the system or how it should change to give more people the chance to use it.

The final study will outline what HRDC could do to upgrade the system now and how it could find money in the future to do more, whether that’s applying for grants, or going to voters or lawmakers to find the cash, Kilcoyne said.

“Bear in mind, anything that needs more funding is not a guarantee,” Kilcoyne said. “We’ll come up with a blueprint on how they can grow the system and where the funding would come from. Then it’s up to HRDC, to Streamline to carry it out.”

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628. 

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