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Flathead County Cancels Glacier Park Shuttles Amid Rising Costs

Glacier Park's Logan Pass Visitor Center on a busy summer day.
Tom Westbrook (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)
Glacier Park's Logan Pass Visitor Center on a busy summer day.

Flathead County is canceling its decade old shuttle service in Glacier National Park. County officials say the Park isn’t keeping up its end of the deal as growing crowds drive up costs. 

Flathead County and Glacier National Park have been in a standoff in recent months over the cost of shuttle services in the park and how to potentially expand them. Those disputes escalated Wednesday when county officials voted to stop shuttle service altogether, claiming county taxpayers are subsidizing the park.

“I’m going to support this termination letter," County Commissioner Randy Brodehl says. "It is with a heavy heart. I do believe our door is open for the park to make a proposal back to us,” he says.

According to the county, annual ridership has increased by nearly 160% since the shuttle service started in 2007.

When Glacier National Park unveiled its new management plan to deal with growing visitation numbers in September, it made clear it wanted to increase the county’s shuttle services inside of the park.

Over the past two months, the county has told the park funding would need to increase by nearly 50% next year in order to keep up with maintenance and administrative costs. The county has also been pushing a separate deal with Glacier to cooperatively expand shuttle service throughout the Flathead Valley and connect several bus routes to the park.

Glacier Superintendent Jeff Mow spoke during public comment. 

“I just want to say the park is still supportive of an integrated transit system," he says. "We want to be a part of that conversation. We know we need to be a part of that conversation. And I think there is that opportunity now that I have the engagement of the Washington and regional offices to help move that forward."

All three county commissioners voted to cancel the shuttle contract. In a press release, Glacier said it’s pursuing new options to revive service.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.