Commuters of Missoula
Missoula In Motion has launched a story-telling series called Commuters of Missoula featuring every day Missoulians that have incorporated sustainable transportation into their lives. Commuters of Missoula features individuals who are frequent bikers, walkers, busers and carpoolers as well as those who just do it once and a while!
Whether you're a winter biker or a once a month bus rider, we'd love to chat! Please consider nominating yourself or a friend (with their permission). Margaret from Missoula In Motion will reach out to you upon submitting nomination.
Questions? Contact Margaret at 552-6732 or email@example.com
Commuter of Missoula Danny
"When we were looking for places to live, we just looked at neighborhoods that were walkable or bikeable, sort of subconsciously. We knew we didn’t want to deal with driving every day. It’s a big hassle and so we looked in neighborhoods that were closer in. For about 10-15 years, I’ve lived in cities, New York City, Washington D.C., where there’s great public transportation. I could never really fathom going to an existence where I’m driving back and forth every day and having to navigate traffic. I guess that sort of set the baseline for me- where life shouldn’t involve a morning commute and an afternoon commute. The decisions we’ve made since then have reflected that. My wife is from New York City so she’s not even that good at driving. I get stressed out when I’m in the passenger seat with her”.
Any advice for new sustainable commuters?
“Oh my gosh, yes! Spikes. Micro spikes [for your shoes]. Also, do it once, whether it’s planned or if it’s an emergency. For instance if your car breaks down or won’t start at the end of the day so you have to walk home or something like that. It’s kind of interesting because you realize that 2 miles, while it can seem like a lot because maybe you have to pass through two neighborhoods, is actually quite doable. And then you get home and you feel good because you’ve just walked two miles! Plus, there’s nothing more peaceful than listening to a podcast and walking”.
Anything interesting that’s happened while commuting?
“I was noticing today, whenever I commute with him by stroller, without fail, someone will stop me or someone will comment and say “oh you’re such a good dad”. And this doesn’t really have anything to do with commuting as much as it does about parenting but no one ever does that to my wife. I get congratulated all the time for just existing as a dad. One morning I was on the way to work, and there’s a McDonald’s at the bottom of the lower Rattlesnake and I stopped there because I wanted to get one of their breakfast sandwiches and one of their coffees. He was having a bad morning, blow out diaper, cranky, it was a little rough. I just wanted to get him out of the house and I was sitting there, he was probably asleep at this point and I was on my phone, with my coffee just like trying to stay sane and a guy came up to me and said “you are doing such a great job”. I was like I’m sitting here browsing twitter, sipping a McDonalds coffee, like drinking it over him, and I’m getting congratulated? My wife will be changing his diaper in the middle of a movie theater and no one will congratulate her. Just sitting here, before you arrived, I got congratulated by one guy for doing a good job. It’s unfair. That has nothing to do with commuting but it’s something I notice on my commute.”What do you love about your commute?“Honestly, you arrive to work a lot happier and you arrive back at home a lot happier. It makes me more productive and it makes me a better parent. I feel a difference walking with him in a stroller versus driving and arriving back home. I feel more ready to do stuff. More active."
Commuter of Missoula Rocky
“I go by the nickname Rocky. I live in the Westside neighborhood and I serve as a foster grandparent at a pre-school on Stephens so it’s the number 2 or 11 bus to downtown and then the 7. I do not have a car. I gave up my car in 2008 principally because well, I had three fender benders that year, and then I drove out to Seattle to visit my daughter and burned out the transmission. I’ve only driven once since that time. I’ve taken the bus consistently for the past 11 years. I really believe that public transportation is important".
“When I was moving out here from the Twin Cities, I came out and drove around and looked at a couple of options and found a place and thought, ‘This is a really nice place.’ And, furthermore, on my way there, I actually had to move out of the way so the bus could get around me, and I thought, ‘Well, hey, that’s handy!’ I really didn’t get a license that was worth anything until I lived in Minnesota, even though I got one when I was in high school, but that was in Missouri. You had to pass a written test, but you didn’t have to take a driving test! It cost 50 cents for my first license.”
"There are whole bunch of people, especially my generation, who are just spooked about riding the bus. The senior van, I take advantage of that a lot. For instance the first Thursday of the month is when Albertsons has their senior citizen discount day, 10% off your full purchase. I also use the senior van occasionally when I go give blood over at the center on Reserve. I suggest getting to know your bus driver by name and introduce yourself. I try to do that too, especially with the new crop we’re getting in, we’re always getting new drivers"
“Most of the drivers are so good and so reasonable. I really enjoy them. Randy of course, I get such a kick out of him. He’s actually been to Santa Claus school. I kid you not. His wife actually made his costume because if you buy them new I guess they cost something like 30K. When Halloween is here I dress up as the Queen of Autumn and he was dressed in this wild shirt one time with the circles around it. I’m very fond of the bus drivers. He’s just a great old friend”
Commuter of Missoula Patrick
“I live on the edge of Westside, over by Draught Works, and I work in the Florence Building. I’ve primarily biked or walked in Missoula since I’d say 2008. I’ve always just enjoyed biking- even when I’ve hated my job and had horrible days at work. Sometimes the best parts of my days have been biking to and from work. I don’t hate my job anymore but ya know, it’s just a good reset. Plus, it’s just a good town. You run into people you know on the street, you have good conversations with people".
"I think distance plays a big factor for a lot of people. It’s too far to walk and it seems too far to bike. I take hundreds of people on 300 mile bike trips and we often do a bike to work day on the ride. The premise is everyone wears work clothes and we go ride 75 miles. If you can ride 75 miles down the California coast in your work clothes, you can bike to work when you get home. At a certain point biking or walking or taking a different form of transportation just becomes what you do!
“So we have this bike- it was an impulse buy at a bike shop in Seattle. It’s a cycle truck cargo bike and has a lower center of gravity front wheel and then a platform and when you turn the handle bars the platform stays level. My wife and I ride with our dog on the front. Anytime I take that thing out, people just smile and they point and they laugh. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a parade and it’s kind of silly but it brings people joy. They love it and she loves it”!
“She just kind of balances up there. When I take the bike out of the shed, she gets so excited. If I’m using it just to go get dog food or chicken food and I don’t bring her, she gives me the stink eye”.
Commuter of Missoula Alley Cat
"I’ve been riding the bus on and off for the past 12 years. I use it 3 or 4 times a day maybe. I’ve actually never had a vehicle. The bus is my main form of transport. I actually prefer taking the bus- it's easier than walking around for some things. I think there’s a high part of the population in Missoula who can afford the gas and their vehicles so that’s why they drive but it seems to me that a lot of people ride the bus too. It’s usually pretty packed".
What are some benefits to riding the bus in Missoula?
“The social impact. That's huge. You get to meet and socialize with a lot of different people. The main thing I like about is it’s free and it gets you around.”
Any pointers for someone that’s never taken the bus?
“You just kind of gotta jump in. Head first, ya know?”
Commuter of Missoula Heather
“I live on the Westside, and I commute to work which is just across the California Street Bridge. So I get to cross that bridge every single day, multiple times a day. I originally started commuting because my son got his drivers permit in 2004 and he started using my car. I’d been to Amsterdam and I loved how they rode their bikes over there and I was like I’m just gunna start riding and see how it goes”!
“Now my only drives are when I’m taking the pets to the vet or doing a big Costco run. I’ve even done Costco on the bike. It’s actually good self-control for going to Costco! I think a lot of people think it’s faster to drive but personally, I haven’t found that. Our system is really wonderful. Even over the past few years, all the connections we’ve made. You really can get from one place to another without hitting major roads. I don’t know if everybody realizes that”!
“There are so many benefits. The peace I feel riding across California Street Bridge every day is one. I see the heron and all the little ducks and the eagles sometimes and it’s just so enjoyable and great for my mental health. I love biking in the winter actually because I have to focus on staying upright on my bicycle. I just focus and think about staying safe on my bike and everything else disappears. And I do have a stressful job so it helps me release all of my stress from the day”.
“There was one day this winter actually, it was a Monday morning and it was super windy and one of our biggest snowfalls and I walked that day. I really enjoyed it because I noticed all the things that I whiz past on my bike. I catch a lot on my bicycle but I still miss things”.
“I met a stranger on the bridge, this older man who's on the bridge all the time and we’d chat and comment on what birds we saw. I would stop on my way home and we’ve just established this friendship. Now when I see him, I stop and we chit chat for 15 or 20 minutes. That’s pretty great”.
Commuters of Missoula Sini and Heikki
Sini: "We’ve just used walking or biking or running since we moved here at the end of September. When we came here we decided not to buy a car here. At the time, our son was 9 months old and he didn’t enjoy sitting in a car at all. So when we moved here we decided to live 9 months without car because Missoula was advertised as a bicycle friendly city. We bought bicycles from Missoula and we brought a stroller from Finland that can be converted into a bicycle trailer. Here in town we have not used a car at all but we have rented a car when we want to go on longer trips.”
Heikki: "The trail in Missoula is very good and that has made it possible to live here without a car. Getting to University I think is much faster by bicycle than by car. And because the trail goes along the river, it’s really beautiful and relaxing. What I like very much for example is the bridge over Reserve Street because one time I tried to cross Reserve Street in another spot and it didn’t work at all. Without that bridge we would be much more stuck. And you can actually get pretty far! I’ve run all the way to Lolo. Even though it goes along the highways it’s still very beautiful. And through the winter, I was really surprised how well the trail stayed clear. But when you cannot get to your destination along the trail, it is just a nightmare. The sidewalks are really bumpy and not often clear of snow in winter. And you cannot even imagine cycling on those bike lanes with a baby in the trailer, it's just too dangerous."
Sini and Heikki: “We haven’t known how bad traffic in a car could be even in the small city like Missoula. We went to a barbeque with a friend and she took us in a car. We were sitting in traffic and we were like “oh boy, is this what it’s like every day”? In the USA, we often feel that the country is made so much for cars and if you do not have a car, you easily feel like second class citizen. In Finland, our infrastructure is very different for pedestrians. Pedestrian roads are meant both for bikers and walkers and they are broad. Pedestrian roads are clearly separated from car roads and often there is grass between the two. It reminded me of how Grant Creek is designed. There is often a ditch between the walkers and the cars. All of the pedestrian roads are maintained by tax money because transportation by walking or cycling is very much appreciated in Finland. It is very safe there concerning the cars and other issues and for example my nieces and nephews are able to go to school by themselves even at 6 years old.”
Commuters of Missoula Claire and Logan
How long have you been using the bus to commute?
Claire: “I’ve been commuting on the bus for a long time. For probably 5 or more years.”
Logan: “Since it became free for me. It’s cheaper to do this and my car broke down not too long ago so I decided to just get rid of it.”
Claire: “I refuse to get my driver’s license because I’d prefer not to own a car. The buses are free and they’re already running so it makes sense.”
What are some benefits of taking the bus?
Claire: “I’ve experienced more free time and its good people watching. I recommend getting the app and getting a paper map just in case your phone is dead or the internet is down. I was nervous when I took the bus for the first time. I did it alone. I wanted to just get out of the house so I decided to take a bus downtown. I just walked around downtown by myself. It was awesome!”
What’s the weirdest story from your commute?
Logan: “Umm, one time when I got on there was a woman who had a messenger bag full of Guiney pigs that she was trying to give away. She tried giving them away but nobody wanted them. I thought about it but I could not take care of a Guiney pig. It was just the weirdest thing.”