Montana Public Transport Office (MPT)
The Montana Public Transit Office (The MPT, known colloquially as The Blue Marble) is a city government office responsible for managing all public transportation within Montana city limits. MPT’s main duties are the oversight of the city bus and ferry networks as well as Montana's light rail system.
Nationalization of bus services
To quell rising unrest, the city nationalized the various private bus companies into a single service operated by the MPT in 1982. This restructuring included lower fares across the city, as well as establishing a level of quality control not seen in the city since bus service began in the 1950s. The MPT created a citywide network of 10 lines, that allowed for a vast increase in mobility for residents.
One of the first major projects for the MPT was the creation of a light rail system to serve the growing downtown area of Montana. The Green Line followed the I-80 freeway and connected downtown with the coastal suburbs to the west of the city. The Blue line connected the industrial south-west with the residential north-east of the city. The MPT broke ground on the first station on the lines in late 1983 and would formally open the line with the completion of the final station in June of 1985. This line would be joined by the Yellow line shuttle in 1989, which ran from the Green Line terminus at Casino, through downtown, before ending at St Theebs Station.
In 1997 City Hall directed the MPT to develop a plan to create a monorail line that would run from Callaway Beach to the University. In September 1997, the MPT presented their analysis of the project and recommended that the plan would be shelved, as the proposed line would share much of the ridership of the existing Green Line light rail. The MPT suggested that if in the future, ridership had risen to a level that the light rail could not sustain, the monorail should be revisited.
Taxi Registration Board
After multiple complaints of high fares in taxis, the Taxicab Registration Board was formed within the MPT in 1991. The board declared that any unregistered taxis operating in Montana after July 1st, 1992 would be subject to heavy fines. As of 2020 the largest taxi operator in Montana is Montana Yellow Cab.
In 1981, citizens took to the streets to protest the lack of oversight of the city’s many private bus companies. The protesters complained that the city was neglecting its duties, with no quality or price controls for the bus companies. In a press conference addressing the concerns of the protesters, the situation was likened to that of a “wild west town” by the city’s mayor, who famously stated that the bus companies were acting as if it was still the “wild west”. He would go on to announce that the city would be nationalizing the bus service as part of the creation of the Montana Public Transport Office.
Due to declining patronage, the MPT withdrew several bus lines in 1992 and sold the operating rights of the city’s bus fleet to Smith’s Transportation in 1996. This resulted in protests in downtown Montana, with residents fighting to restore the closed routes. Despite the protests, the lines remained closed, and Smith’s Transportation took over as planned. In 1995 MPT announced several major projects to expand light rail service. The Yellow Line Extension would extend the light rail system across the bay to the newly renovated Oakwood Depot, while the Downtown Corridor consisted of extensive works on the stretch of rail between Central and Museum which would allow Yellow and Green line trains to run along the same tracks to provide more frequent service in downtown Montana. As part of this project, two additional platforms were added to Central Station, in addition to a new, modern glass roof.
As part of the larger restructuring of the MPT, the operation of the public transit in the city fell to a new department called Metro. This department would directly oversee all light rail, bus, and ferry operations in the city, with MPT focusing on other transit options, including taxis and charter buses.
2017 Refurbishment Scheme
In 2017, the MPT announced a redesign of their entire branding The project took 2 years to complete with a short, 1-week hiatus in 2018 to refit the inside of buses and light rail with a new layout. All electronic signaling, its livery, logo, and stations were all renovated as part of the project. The unveiling of the renovated car, dubbed "The Dollar" by the head of the refurbishment committee, was unveiled on June 19th, 2019, and billboards were soon introduced afterward.
There is currently a joint venture with Marble Transportation Group underway to completely rebuild the Montana Bus Hub for inter-city services. The MPT has been planning a complete re-development of the Montana Bus Hub for several years, however, the government office has encountered difficulties acquiring sufficient funds from City Hall to begin the project. A joint public-private partnership between the MPT and Marble Transportation Group established in mid-2018 secured the remaining funds. Work began in November 2018 and is expected to last 3 years.
Funding for the MPT comes from a variety of sources. Most funding comes from passenger fares and parking fees. Secondary income comes from a tax increase implemented in 1982, as well as fines and the Montana city general fund. The total operating revenue for 2018 was $341.7 million, with around $121 million from passenger fares, $119 million from parking, and $70 million from the general fund. The MPT receives an additional $35 million from Smith's Transport through registration and licensing fees to allow the company to remain private.