New bus service links valley cities

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A commuter bus service linking Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls will kick in on Tuesday.

Eagle Transit has set up Kalispell-Whitefish, Whitefish-Columbia Falls and Kalispell-Columbia Falls routes with eight new buses that it shares with Glacier National Park.

The transit authority has been getting many requests for such a commuter service during the past couple of years, especially with people wanting to ride to Flathead Valley Community College and Whitefish Mountain Resort, according to Cheryl Talley, Eagle Transit's manager.

The service probably will last until early July, when the eight buses will be used at Glacier Park until Sept. 1.

After that, it will depend on whether Eagle Transit can raise operating money to revive the between-towns commuter service, Talley said.

Eagle Transit has had nine buses.

The eight new buses were bought for $2.4 million with the Montana Department of Transportation paying 80 percent and Glacier National Park paying the rest.

The broad concept calls for Eagle Transit to use the buses for between-towns commuting for nine months of the year and Glacier Park to use them for the remaining three months.

Eagle Transit has obtained a $60,000 state grant and provided $60,000 in matching money, which is enough to run the commuter service until early July.

Consequently, the transit authority has applied for state money to help it run the service after Sept. 1, and is looking for other funding.

Each new bus seats 23 passengers and has straps for 30 standing passengers plus a rack for two bicycles. The new buses are accessible to wheelchair-bound passengers.

The between-towns commuter fare is $1, with a monthly pass for unlimited rides available for $25.

Schedules can be obtained by calling Eagle Transit at 758-2426 or going to the Web site, http://co.flathead.mt.us/Eagle/index.htm.

The Kalispell-Whitefish route has Kalispell stops at Lions Park,

the Super 8 motel, the Flathead County Courthouse, the main library building, Kalispell Regional Medical Center, Flathead Valley Community College and in front of the IHOP, Costco, The Summit, KFC, Sykes', the county-owned Blue Building, the Salvation Army and the Hilton Garden Inn.

Whitefish stops are at North Valley Hospital, the Mountain Mall and Midway Mini-Mart.

The Kalispell-Columbia Falls bus stops in Kalispell at Lions Park, Super 8, the courthouse, the library, Smith's, ShopKo, Semitool, Costco, FVCC, Kalispell Regional, KFC, Sykes', the Blue Building, the Salvation Army and the Hilton.

The Columbia Falls stops are at the Town Pump, Super 1 Foods and Semitool North.

The Columbia Falls-Whitefish route has Columbia Falls stops at the Columbia Heights Park and Ride, Pamida, Teakettle and Super One Foods. Whitefish stops are at North Valley Hospital and Mountain Mall.

Reporter John Stang may be reached at 758-4429 or by e-mail at jstang@dailyinterlake.com

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