Billings MET Transit advertises “You can get there by bus.”
As of last Monday, “there” no longer includes the Billings Hotel and Convention Center or the neighboring Holiday Inn Grand on weekdays.
New, tan-colored bus schedules have eliminated route 12D (Overland Avenue), which had made four loops daily past those facilities.
But a new Saturday route (S11) labeled South 24th Street West duplicates that run.
The new schedules, which became available from drivers last week, also dropped the final Alkali run at 5:10 p.m., but most routes remain unchanged or with slightly different times.
A few routes have added runs and new “tripper routes” have been added to serve public school students get to and fro during the week.
The most notable addition is the Southwest (13P) route, which has expanded from eight trips to 13 beginning at Stewart Park behind Rimrock Mall and looping up King Avenue West by Walmart, Golden Meadows and the South Forty community. The route passes Olympic Village (but not to the new Shiloh Crossing at King Avenue West and Shiloh Road) and returns to Stewart via Monad Road.
The Southside (10D) schedule expands from seven to nine inbound trips to the downtown transit center on 25th Street North while outbound Southside bus grows from eight daily trips to 10.
When school starts next Wednesday, students at Billings Senior and West can board the new Grand Kicker beginning at 3:22 p.m. Heights students at Skyview High and Castle Rock Middle School have an added way to go to school on the new T1-A Castle Rock Tripper when school is in session.
Students riding the MET are advised to smile – they’re on camera. Using around $200,000 in federal stimulus funds, a British Columbia firm installed four cameras on each MET bus – the same number used for surveillance in many of the public school buildings.
Relying heavily on federal and local subsidies, the public bus system is forecast to be some $284,000 in the red in Fiscal Year 2012 and if no rates or subsidies are increased will have exhausted its reserves by FY 2015.
In 2009, MET raised its fares for the first time in 18 years. The cost is $1.25 per trip (50 cents for seniors or the disabled) or $22 for a monthly pass, $15 for students and $6 for the elderly and/or disabled. In addition to obtaining schedules from drivers, routes are posted on the Billings MET Transit website.