PABLO – Starting next week, folks on the Flathead Indian Reservation and in communities north will have a bus to catch.
It’s been a while.
Daily passenger service between Missoula and Whitefish will resume Monday with stops in eight more communities along the way, including Polson and Kalispell.
Flathead Transit, a service of the Confederated and Salish Kootenai Tribes, will offer the public transportation.
It’s been eight years since bus service was offered between Missoula and the Flathead Valley, according to Greyhound spokeswoman Alexandra Pedrini.
Federal funds administered through the Montana Department of Transportation, and funding from Greyhound, are making it possible.
It’s the first time Greyhound has collaborated with an Indian tribe or tribes to offer bus service according to Corky Sias, transportation manager for Flathead Transit.
“The federal funds are for routes that can’t sustain themselves,” says David Jacobs, transit section supervisor for MDT. “They subsidize routes that are not profitable, to provide transportation for people who need it.”
The route will provide connections to Greyhound in Missoula, Amtrak in Whitefish, and local and regional services in Missoula and Kalispell, he said.
“More importantly, it re-establishes mobility options for Montanans who rely on public transit out of necessity or choice,” Jacobs added.
The annual federal funds total $204,688, according to Jacobs. Greyhound is adding another $133,934, and no state or local funds will be used to subsidize the service.
Flathead Transit must use the fares it collects to pay bills connected to operating the service before the federal or Greyhound funds are accessed, Jacobs added, and the service is only subsidized to the break-even point.
Sias says Flathead Transit will start running the route with a 17-passenger “cutaway” bus already in its fleet, and purchase a larger vehicle down the road if demand merits it.
When bus service did exist on the route, it averaged 10 to 13 riders a day, depending on the day of the week, he said.
Flathead Transit worked with Greyhound to establish fares. A one-way ticket between Missoula and Whitefish will cost $31, according to Sias. A one-way ticket between Missoula and Polson will be $19.
Between Missoula and Whitefish the service will make stops in Evaro, Arlee, Ravalli, St. Ignatius, Pablo, Polson, Lakeside and Kalispell. Flathead Transit is still seeking a business in Ronan that is open seven days a week, and at the right times of day, that is interested in serving as a stopping point there.
“This new service will be available to the general public and anyone needing transportation along this route,” Sias said in the news release. “We are also proud to be partnering with Greyhound to offer service nationwide.”
The route will leave Missoula at 11:30 a.m. seven days a week and make stops in Evaro (11:50 a.m.), Arlee (noon), Ravalli (12:10 p.m.), St. Ignatius (12:15 p.m.), Pablo (1 p.m.), Polson (1:25 p.m.), Lakeside (2:10 p.m.), Kalispell (2:30 p.m.) and Whitefish (3:10 p.m.).
The return route departs Whitefish at 4:45 p.m., and then leaves Kalispell at 5:25 p.m., Lakeside at 5:45 p.m., Polson at 6:30 p.m., Pablo at 6:40 p.m., St. Ignatius at 7:40 p.m., Ravalli at 7:45 p.m., Arlee at 7:55 p.m. and Evaro at 8:05 p.m. It is scheduled to arrive back in Missoula at 8:25 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the Greyhound Terminal in Missoula, Stuart’s Cenex in St. Ignatius, Quick Silver in Pablo, Kwa Taq Nuk Resort in Polson and Brian’s Conoco in Kalispell. Customers can also purchase tickets to and from the 10 communities on the route through any Greyhound selling locations nationwide or online.
The service is offered in cooperation with Greyhound as part of its Greyhound Connect program, which serves small towns and rural communities in the U.S.
As of Tuesday, the new route and fares were not displayed at the Greyhound website. The link to Greyhound Connect showed it offers service in six states, but Montana had not yet been added to the list.
Greyhound president and CEO Dave Leach said in the news release the bus company looks forward “to maintaining this partnership for the traveling public for years to come.”