Bozeman Park & Ride Controversy

Nick Wolcott | Chronicle

Nick Wolcott | Chronicle

One of Bozeman's largest and busiest shopping centers is threatening to close its bus stop for the community's local transit bus (Streamline), all because one rider wrote a letter to the editor saying the Bridger Peaks Town Center parking lot was the only viable place for him to leave his car then ride the bus to work. He was upset because he had gotten a warning note on his windshield saying his car would be towed if he continued to park and ride.

So far the public face of Bridger Peaks Town Center has been their facility manager "Sparky" - a spokesperson who has a talent for sparking controversy with the petulant and undiplomatic tone of his public statements. The controversy has been the topic of several Bozeman Chronicle articles and letters to the editor as well as an editorial urging a reasonable solution:

Over the holidays I had a very relevant experience involving Montana State University and the Skyline Bus that provides service to Big Sky. I thought my experience could provide some perspective on the park and ride controversy, so I wrote the following letter to the editor:

Nothing puts a damper on a great day of skiing like getting off the bus and finding a $60 parking ticket on your windshield for “failure to register” at MSU. But I’m writing to thank MSU, to share some useful information and to weigh in on the bus parking debate at Bridger Peaks Town Center.

MSU’s policies are strict but fair considering the number of student, staff and faculty vehicles the campus accommodates. Because school was out for the holidays, I thought I was fine leaving my car in the huge empty parking lot across from the Skyline bus stop. But turns out MSU will ticket you on any weekday except staff holidays.

The MSU police station is conveniently located a short walk from the bus stop, so I took a few deep breaths, calmed down, told myself not to be confrontational (something the manager at Bridger Peaks might have considered), and went in to inquire about why they’d ticked my car in a giant empty parking lot. I spoke with a friendly, reasonable woman who explained the policy, then let me off with just a warning and a very useful piece of information – the MSU police station is always open and you can go in any time and buy a one-day parking pass for just $2.50 – problem solved!

Round trip to Big Sky is 88 miles, so it’s a big cost savings, much more environmentally responsible, and a lot more relaxing to take the bus. Thanks to MSU for providing a bus stop and a very reasonably priced parking solution. I hope Bridger Peaks considers keeping a bus stop to accommodate disabled and elderly shoppers as well as people who just want to save some gas and some money – likely including some of the people who work there.

Ted Lange