Beginning Feb. 19, Flathead County will have an inter-city public bus system, with routes between Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls.
The commuter buses, eight in total, will run between 5:55 a.m. and 7 p.m., with a wide range of stops in each city. Schedules are available online at Flathead County Eagle Transit’s Web site, as well as at the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, supermarkets and a variety of other locations. Monthly passes are available for $25 or passengers can pay $1 each way. Punch cards are also available.
Cheryl Talley, program manager for Eagle Transit, said an improved public transportation system in the county has been necessary for years.
“The need’s there,” she said. “We’d love to do it ten times more if we had the buses and funding. We’ve had a lot of calls for it but we’ve just never been able to pull it together until now.”
The buses are Glacier National Park tour buses, which are only used in July and August. Under an agreement between the county, the Montana Department of Transportation and Glacier National Park, the county gets to use the buses until June, at which time park will take them back for pre-summer services.
The buses are equipped with outside bicycle racks that can hold two bikes. They are also fully handicap accessible. The funding came from a one-time grant through the cooperative agreement, in which the county received $60,000 and then had to match that amount locally. Talley said the county came up with the local funds through a combination of various donations and a mill levy.
Talley said in June county officials will determine the success of the bus system and whether to continue it next year. Talley believes the community will support it.
“It’s a success,” she said. “We’ll be trying to get the funding again next year and we’ll be looking for a local match and hopefully the community will contribute.”
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