Montana Public Transportation Made Easy: Full Guide

When you think of Montana, sprawling landscapes and wide-open roads may come to mind. But did you know that the Treasure State offers a variety of public transportation options too?

From bus systems in major cities to rural transit options, Montana has you covered when it comes to getting around without a personal vehicle.

I’ll walk you through the diverse public transportation services available in Montana, including services like the Streamline Bus in Bozeman, available shuttle services across the state, different taxi operators, and Montana’s sole passenger train, Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

Whether you’re a resident looking for an eco-friendly commute or a visitor planning to explore the state’s scenic wonders, this guide to Montana’s public transportation has something for everyone.

So, are you ready to unlock the treasure trove of transportation options in Big Sky Country? Let’s dive in!

7 Key Takeaways on Montana Public Transportation

  1. Montana has diverse bus services like Jefferson Lines, Greyhound, and Streamline in towns like Missoula, Billings, and Whitefish.
  2. Shuttles cover airports and trails in areas such as Glacier National Park, Flathead Valley, and Big Sky.
  3. Taxis, including Lone Peak Taxi, Bridger Taxi, Uber, and Lyft, are widely available in major cities and towns.
  4. Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the only passenger train service that is available in Montana.
  5. Bozeman and Missoula offer eco-friendly buses and zero-fare services.
  6. Helena and Billings have public bus systems with specialized routes.
  7. Butte has also an extensive local bus system and various taxi options, including Uber and Lyft.

Public Transportation in Montana

A Montana bus traveling down a road with mountains in the background.

When you think of Montana, sprawling landscapes and wide-open roads may come to mind.

But did you know that the Treasure State offers a variety of public transportation options too?

From bus systems in major cities to rural transit options, Montana offers visitors and residents alike a variety of ways to get around without relying on a personal vehicle.

1. Bus Services in Montana

A bus driving down a road in Montana at sunset.

Traveling around Montana may seem challenging due to its smaller population, resulting in a less extensive bus system compared to other states.

Jefferson Lines provides intercity bus connections in the state, with stations in towns including Arlee, Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Evaro, Glendive, Kalispell, Lakeside, Miles City, Missoula, Ronan, Polson, Ravalli, Saint Ignatius, and Whitefish.

Several Jefferson bus stations in Montana operate daily, with some remaining open 24/7.

Intercity Bus Services:

  • Jefferson Lines
  • Greyhound
  • Streamline
  • Salt Lake Express
  • Express Arrow

Local Bus Services:

  • ASUM Transportation (Missoula)
  • Mountain Line (Missoula)
  • MET Transit (Billings)
  • Great Falls Transit (Great Falls)
  • Eagle Transit (Whitefish)

Some bus companies in Montana also offer bus tours catering to various needs such as organizing senior citizen trips, private parties, field trips, and National Park Tours.

This diversity of bus services makes getting around Montana more accessible and convenient for both residents and tourists alike.

2. Shuttles in Montana

A shuttle in Montana drives on the road in the middle of a field with mountains in the background.

When it comes to getting around in Montana, the shuttle services here are as diverse as the landscapes they traverse.

Whether you need an airport shuttle to your resort or a ride to the trailhead for your next adventure, you’re covered.

Here are a few shuttle services you’ll want to keep on your radar:

  • Mountain Shuttle (Whitefish, Flathead Valley, Kalispell)
  • Montana Adventure Shuttle (Missoula)
  • Venture Shuttles Montana (Bigfork)
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road Shuttle Service (Glacier National Park)
  • University of Montana Bus Shuttle Service (Missoula)
  • BVS Shuttle Service (Stevensville)
  • Peak Shuttle (Bozeman, Big Sky)
  • Fins Shuttle Service (Ennis)

While Glacier National Park offers a seasonal hiker’s shuttle, Yellowstone National Park doesn’t have a public transportation system in place.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, you’ll want to consider other transportation options.

Many shuttle services in Montana operate on a seasonal basis, so it’s always a good idea to check their schedules in advance.

In a state as vast as Montana, having reliable shuttle services at your disposal can be a game-changer.

3. Taxis in Montana

A group of taxis lining a Montana street at night.

If you’re in a pinch and need to get from point A to B in Montana, taxis are a dependable choice.

They’re not just limited to the larger cities; you’ll find them in most towns, making them a versatile option.

In cities like Bozeman, competitive rates and a focus on quality are the norm. Bridger Taxi Service, for instance, prides itself on punctuality and safety.

When I hopped into one of their cabs, the driver was not only on time but also knew the city like the back of their hand.

But what about Montana ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft? They’re a thing, especially in busier cities. I’ve used both in Missoula and found them convenient.

However, a word of caution: don’t rely solely on these services, especially in smaller towns where availability might be limited. Research in advance to avoid any surprises.

Here’s a handy list of taxi services you can count on in various Montana locations:

  • Lone Peak Taxi (Bozeman, Big Sky)
  • Bridger Taxi (Bozeman)
  • Mining City Taxi (Butte)
  • Uber (Montana-wide)
  • Lyft (Montana-wide)
  • Yellow Cab (Missoula)
  • Huckleberry Express Taxi (Bitterroot Valley)
  • Helena Taxi Company (Helena)
  • Bozeman Airport Taxi (Bozeman)
  • City Cab (Billings)
  • Kalispell Taxi Company
  • Kalispell Airport Taxi

Whether you need a quick airport transfer, a late-night ride, or a city tour, Montana’s taxi services have got you covered.

Just remember, while taxis are generally a reliable choice, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan, especially if you’re venturing into more remote areas.

4. Train Services in Montana

A passenger train on a snowy track in Montana.

Trains have played a crucial role in Montana’s growth and transport. The state’s initial railroad establishment in the early 19th century led to significant growth in the train industry.

However, around 1,300 miles (2,092 km) of Montana’s railway infrastructure were lost post-1920s due to redevelopment or abandonment.

Today, the BNSF Railway Northern Transcon is the state’s sole passenger line, spanning an impressive 32,500 miles (52,303 km).

However, only specific sections of this line accommodate Montana’s only passenger train, Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

The Empire Builder route along the High Line makes stops at various small towns and stations near Glacier National Park, including Browning, Cut Bank, East Glacier Park, Essex, Havre, Libby, Malta, Shelby, West Glacier, Whitefish, and Wolf Point.

Besides Amtrak’s Empire Builder, no other passenger train services are presently available in Montana. Check out the full list of Montana Train Stations.

Best Places in Montana for Public Transportation

An aerial view of a town in Montana with buildings and trees.

When it comes to exploring Montana, you might not immediately think of public transportation as your go-to mode of travel.

However, there are several cities and towns in the state that offer reliable and convenient public transit options.

1. Bozeman

A street with cars parked in Bozeman.

Bozeman isn’t just a college town; it’s a city that’s got its transportation game on point.

You will surely be astounded by Bozeman’s advantageous public transportation system, specifically, the Streamline Bus service.

The system has a five-weekday route covering Montana State University, neighborhoods, businesses, and landmarks, ensuring accessibility from 6:45 am to 10:00 pm.

It’s a fantastic eco-friendly option, promoting sustainability and catering to both residents and visitors alike.

As someone who’s hopped on the Streamline Bus more times than I can count, I can vouch for its convenience.

The busy Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport drives demand for public transport in town, making the Streamline Bus crucial for residents and visitors alike.

But let’s say you need a more personalized ride. Bozeman has you covered with several taxi services, including One Call Taxi LLC, Bozeman Airport Taxi, and Bridger Taxi.

These services are a great alternative if you’re pressed for time or simply prefer a more direct route.

Bozeman truly has an efficient and diverse transportation system that meets the needs of both locals and tourists.

2. Missoula

A scenic view of Missoula, Montana.

Missoula, a city that takes its public transportation seriously, has set itself apart with the Mountain Line Zero-fare electric bus service.

  • Mountain Line Zero-Fare – A community-driven service with no passenger charges.
  • Rise in Ridership – The zero-fare program has made public transportation more accessible and popular.
  • Congestion Relief and Healthier Commutes – By encouraging active transportation, the program reduces traffic and the need for parking.

The vehicles were clean, the drivers friendly, and the sense of community palpable.

And it’s not just me; since the program’s inception, ridership has skyrocketed by nearly 70%.

That’s a lot of cars off the road, making Missoula a greener and less congested place to be.

But what if you’re in a hurry or need a more direct route? Missoula has you covered with taxi services like Missoula Green Taxi and Yellow Cab.

And if you’re a fan of ride-hailing services, both Uber and Lyft operate within the city limits.

Missoula’s public transportation options truly make it a standout destination for those looking to explore without the need for a car.

3. Helena

An old brick building on the corner of a street in Helena.

When visiting Helena, you’ll find that public transportation is easily accessible through Capital Transit, the city’s public bus service.

Operating Monday to Friday, Capital Transit provides a convenient and affordable means of getting around the city for both residents and visitors.

With two route buses in the city (the Red Route and Blue Route), an East Valley bus, and an ADA Complementary Curb-to-Curb/Para Transit bus, there are options to suit everyone’s transportation needs.

For those who prefer taxi services, Helena offers options such as Helena Taxi Company, MyRide Montana, and Lone Peak Transportation.

So, why worry about parking or navigating unfamiliar streets when you can let someone else do the driving? It’s all part of the charm of this capital city.

4. Billings

Billings, Montana

Billings, the largest city in Montana, is no stranger to the hustle and bustle of urban life.

But amidst the energy, the city has made significant strides in offering efficient and eco-friendly public transportation options.

Enter the Billings MET (Mass Transit and Express Transit) system, your ticket to exploring the city with ease.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Billings MET – The Billings MET system is a comprehensive network that covers both fixed routes and paratransit services.
  • Two Transit Centers – There are two transit centers located in the town. Downtown and Stewart Park Transit Center are the primary hubs for bus transfers and connections. 
  • Specialized Services – What sets the Billings MET system apart is its commitment to serving diverse populations. Specialized services for the elderly and disabled to dedicated routes for school-age children.
  • Cleaner Air, Less Congestion – By opting for public transportation, you’re not just saving money; you’re also contributing to a cleaner environment.

The city’s push to reduce traffic congestion and promote sustainable travel is evident in the MET system’s design.

Now, let’s talk about Billings Logan International Airport. As a major transportation hub in Billings.

This is particularly beneficial for incoming and outgoing visitors who do not have private vehicles, as they can rely on the airport’s facilities to meet their transportation needs.

The public transportation system in Billings makes it easy for everyone to get around, while also contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable environment.

5. Butte

When it comes to getting around in Butte, you’ve got more options than you might expect.

Butte, Montana

The Butte-Silver Bow Bus is the city’s main public transportation system, with six routes that’ll take you just about anywhere you need to go.

  • The Butte-Silver Bow Bus – This local bus service is your go-to for navigating the city. With six routes, it’s a comprehensive system that can get you to schools, workplaces, shopping centers, and healthcare facilities with ease.
  • Montana Department of Transportation – In addition to the local bus service, the state’s Department of Transportation also offers public transportation options in Butte.

Butte also offers various taxi services, such as Bridger Taxi, Mining City Taxi, Capital Taxi, and Butte Cab Company.

These options provide flexibility for those who prefer individualized transportation.

For visitors, ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are also available in the city, making it easy to get from one place to another without needing a car.

Whether you’re a resident or just passing through, Butte has a range of transportation options to suit your needs.

Now, if you’re more tech-savvy, you’ll be happy to know that Butte also has ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

So even if you’re not familiar with the local taxi companies, you can always rely on these popular apps to get you where you need to go.

Montana Public Transportation Final Thoughts

A public bus driving through the picturesque roads of Montana at sunset.

After exploring the various public transportation services in Montana, it’s clear that there are a variety of options available for getting around the state.

However, it’s important to note that researching the availability of taxis beforehand is essential, especially in smaller towns where ride availability might be limited.

It’s advisable not to solely rely on these services for transportation. I also recommend having a route map when planning your travels.

In terms of passenger train services, Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the only available option in Montana at this time.

This limits the options for those looking to travel by train within the state.

Despite this, there are cities in Montana that have a relatively good public transportation system, such as Bozeman, Missoula, Helena, Billings, and Butte.

These cities offer more reliable options for getting around via public transportation compared to others.

Keep all these in mind when exploring Montana to ensure a seamless journey across the state.

Montana Public Transportation FAQs

1. Does Montana Have Public Transportation?

Yes, Montana does have public transportation services available in various cities and towns across the state.

These services include bus systems, shuttles, and in some areas, taxi services, providing transportation options for residents and visitors.

2. What Is the Best Public Transit in Montana?

Buses in Montana are considered the best public transit option due to their safety, accessibility, and environmental benefits.

The state’s major cities have low-cost or free public transportation, such as Bozeman’s Streamline Bus, and Missoula’s Mountain Line, which offer electric-powered buses and are recognized for their outstanding public transportation systems.

3. What Is the Best Way to Travel to Montana?

Traveling to Montana via plane is highly recommended due to the relatively short travel times, spanning roughly 2 to 4 hours from other states.

Some prefer road trips to explore the state’s vast landscapes and national parks, while others prefer flying directly to major cities for convenience.

4. Can You Live in Montana Without a Car?

Living in Montana without a car is possible in areas with public transportation, but it might be more challenging in rural or remote regions where owning a car is often necessary for convenience and mobility.

Read more about Getting Around Montana Without a Car.

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Written by:

Chris Hall
Hi, I'm Chris Hall, co-founder of Growing up among Montana's breathtaking landscapes ignited my passion for travel. While I've journeyed to many corners of the world, the allure of Montana's wild beauty always draws me back. To me, travel is about understanding the soul of a place, and Montana has a special place in my heart. It's where endless adventures meet raw nature.

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