Happy, happy Friday. All best, Wheeler.

Mort the magnificent at home at Rockin Rudy's.

Mort the magnificent at home at Rockin Rudy's.

Do you know what someone in a position of authority told me secretly today? “Leave early.” Wahooo! I’m going to give it a whirl.

The picture is for my last bullet point. Here are the matters at hand as I await returned calls.

1. This is funny. I left city communications director Ginny Merriam a voicemail saying something like this: “Hey Ginny. It’s Keila calling. I am doing a brief update about the interlocal agreement for OPG and the new city planning office. I talked to Marilyn about what was going on and wanted to check in with you to find out if you think John the mayor wants to talk about that too since it’s his deal. Anyway, 523-5262. Thanks. Bye.” (I say “John the mayor” out of habit ’cause at one point, when you were talking about City Hall, there was John the mayor, John a councilor, and Jon a councilor.)

Anyhow, the city uses this software that translates voicemails into emails. Merriam sent me the translation for my Friday amusement, and I’m  pasting it here for yours: “Hey Ginny it’s Wheeler calling I am doing a brief update about the inter local agreement for OPG and the new city planning office I talked to Marilyn about what was going on wanted to check in with you to find out if you think John them air want to talk about that too since it is since it’s it’s deal anyway 523-5262 thanks bye.” Wheeler? Alright, then. Wheeler.

2. Did you make it to any of the Mountain Line meetings about changes to bus routes? I hope so. Here’s a story about one meeting this week. If you don’t know about this project, go here.

It’s always wonderful to talk with people who are enthusiastic about their jobs, and Mountain Line general manager Michael Tree seems to be one of those folks. Below is more from Tree on a couple other questions.

“I’ve really enjoyed hearing from the community,” Tree wrote in an email. “Their passion speaks to importance of Mountain Line services.  I think in the end the community will end up with a more efficient system that carries more passengers and better supports economic development and the prosperity of Missoula.”

Q. What’s next for public meetings on the changes to bus routes?

A. I anticipate that a draft preferred alternative will be ready for the Board of Directors and public to view and comment on in late April.  Due to the high interest, I anticipate that we will move the meeting date/time/location off of the regularly scheduled April 26th Board meeting at noon to try and accommodate as many people as possible.  We’ll also put the draft preferred alternative online with a comment form during that time period for those who cannot make the meeting, or who would like to have a venue other than the meeting to express their thoughts.

Q. Will people be able to see public comments? From a question on Twitter.

A. The online comments and those at the workshop have been enormous (considering both the first round of public workshops and the second thus far).  Although we are keeping the comments and they will be on file with the project, most likely we will provide in the draft final report to the Board a summary by theme of the comments. (At the meeting, Tree or the consultant went through a list of the surveys received from folks on the bus and online, and the total is in the couple thousand.)

Q. Some people at one meeting said they would petition out of paying into Mountain Line if their service got cut. Can they do that?

A. I’m sure there is a mechanism for residents to not remain in the Transit District.  I’m not sure of the details of how this might happen.  I think that one of the important things for residents in the Transit District to keep in mind is that as the community looks at public transportation options, there most likely will be areas where fixed route is not the most efficient and cost effective way to provide public transit services.  Vanpooling and carpooling might take care of important transportation needs while at the same time providing resources for a more user-friendly and livable fixed route system in areas of the community where more demand or usage will be present.  Additionally, critical door-to-door service for the senior and disabled within areas where the community might want to eliminate fixed route service for efficiency reasons needs to be considered.  The number of seniors and disabled in the community will rise considerably in the future and these services will be important.

Also, Councilman Adam Hertz posted a link to the following study on his “Adam Hertz for Missoula City Council” page on Facebook. (“Like” it for his updates.)

In 2010, the Montana Policy Institute conducted a survey that found public transit in Montana was more expensive and less environmentally friendly than driving. While understanding that some Montanans need access to transportation, MPI included several great options for possible fixes to provide for more convenience, lower expenses, and more environmental friendliness.

3. The other day, I went to Rockin Rudy’s to pick up a card for a friend. A puffy cat reclined in the corner. Yes, Rockin Rudy’s got not just one but TWO new cats. From the back, one (pictured above) even looks like the late and beloved Bubba. Naturally, a story was in order.

OK. I got a call back, so it’s time to write a story. Ciao for now.

— Wheeler