Public Bus Systems More Costly, Environmentally Damaging


Study: Public Bus Systems More Costly, Environmentally Damaging

BOZEMAN – A study released today by the Montana Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Bozeman, shows that public transit systems in the state of Montana are both more costly than other means of transportation and more damaging to the environment.

The study, titled Public Transit in Montana specifically looked at the costs and environmental impacts of public transit systems in Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, and Missoula.

While the average cost of driving in Montana is less than 23 cents per passenger mile, the study shows the average cost of public transit in the state totals more than $1 per passenger mile.

Urban buses are also found to use more energy than private vehicles and release on average more than twice the amount of carbon emissions per passenger mile as a light truck.

The study provides alternatives for public transportation, including proposals for vouchers, shared taxis, also known as jitneys, and privatization that have the potential to meet urban transportation needs at lower cost and with less environmental impact.

“We’re not just cursing the darkness with this study. We’ve identified a disconnect between what people are being told about the supposed benefits of city busses and what is actually happening; and we’ve proposed serious, workable alternatives that would save taxpayer dollars, reduce environmental costs, and provide much more choice to those who want or need public transportation.” said MPI President Carl Graham. “Cities and counties in Montana need to decide if they’re in the business of moving people or of running busses,” he added.

The study is authored by Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randal O’Toole. Mr. O’Toole’s analysis of urban land-use and transportation issues, outlined in his 2001 book, The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths, has influenced decisions in cities across the country.


To view the full report or for more information people can go to



The full study compares cost and subsidies per passenger mile for the Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, and Missoula bus and paratransit systems to average driving costs per passenger mile in Montana. It then compares energy consumption and C02 emissions per passenger mile of each city’s bus and paratransit systems to those of an average light car, average light truck, and Toyota Prius.


Mr. O’Toole’s bio can be found at: