The University of Montana’s fleet of buses will burn cleaner and run quieter next year when a new vehicle hits the streets.

The Associated Students of the University of Montana applied for and received a Clean Diesel Grant from the state Department of Environmental Quality to help purchase the new $400,000 bus.

Zack Brown, president of ASUM, called the new bus a welcome addition to the university’s transportation fleet. The service has seen its ridership grow from less than 4,000 passengers in 2000 to 450,000 this year.

“It goes without saying our service does a ton to alleviate traffic concerns, parking concerns and pollution, just by reducing the need for automobile use among students, staff and faculty,” said Brown. “This provides an opportunity to plan for and pursue a state-of-the-art bus fleet.”

Nancy Wilson, director of ASUM’s transportation office, said the new El Dorado bus will enter the fleet next September. The vehicle will replace one of the vintage New Flyer buses now in use.

“We have five of those New Flyer buses, but one of them will be completely disabled and replaced with a new El Dorado bus,” said Wilson. “It will fit within our service. Our equipment rotates throughout the routes.”

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ASUM had purchased old equipment to meet the growing demands for bus service and hold down costs. While they’ve succeeded in meeting demand, some residents along the bus routes have complained that the vehicles are too loud and dirty.

Brown said the new bus will provide cleaner and quieter service. ASMU looks to replace each of its buses in the years ahead.

“We’ve heard from folks in the community concerned about pollution levels and noise,” Brown said. “We take those concerns very seriously. This is the first big step toward addressing those concerns in a meaningful way.”

A portion of the funding was provided by matching funds received from Small Transit Intensive Cities funds, which are shared by ASUM and Mountain Line in Missoula.

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