Safe Rides Home For New Year's Eve Revelers

Dec 31, 2018

Credit Dennis Sylvester Hurd

New Year’s Eve revelers in Montana ringing in 2019  have options on how to make it home safely after drinking, including cab, Uber or Lyft rides, buses, and shuttles.  

For partiers in Helena, there’s a one-of-a-kind program that has taken   mobile ride-sharing to a new level.

It is called Home Free; it is a partnership between the Tri-County Licensed Beverage Association and Uber. Bruce McCullough, president of the local beverage association, helped to set it up more than a year and a half ago. He says it’s succeeded beyond expectations.

“To date since we’ve had it up and rolling we’ve done over 1,100 rides in this community and in my opinion that’s huge,” says McCullough. “And it just continues to expand as we get more taverns hooked up. “

McCullough says there are three elements that have made this a success: affordable, dependable and simple. Each participating establishment has a dedicated device with a special Uber app on it.

“Because if it is not a simple system the bartenders are not dong to use it on a busy night,” McCullough says.

So far this Uber based system in the Helena area is so far the only one in the country.

But most Montana cities and their local tavern association offer some type of ride service according to the Montana Tavern Association.

"Just don't get behind the wheel..."

For more than 30 years the Cascade County Tavern Association has operated shuttle buses and also employs addition SUV’s on New Year’s Eve to get patrons home safely.

The Silver Bow Tavern Association in Butte has its own program also called Home Free that is offered at over 40 Butte bars that belong to the association. Patrons inform the bartender they need a ride and get a voucher to pay for the ride.

Home Free Missoula sponsored by the Missoula County Tavern Association also offers vouchers. Fifteen taverns in the Missoula area participate in this program.

Local bar owners in the Home Safe program in Billings will pay up to $10 to help customers bet a safe ride home by cab, Uber or Lyft.

In Bozeman the Gallatin County Licensed Beverage Association sponsors Streamline, two big yellow buses that will run from 5:00pm t0 3:00am along a route from Main Street down to Seventh.

AAA Montana’s Tipsy Tow will be in operation Dec. 31, from 6:00pm to 6:00am Tuesday, Jan. 1.  It provides a free ride home and vehicle tow for up to ten miles for any driver and a passenger. It’s available to anyone, not just AAA members, and is being offered in the eight communities; Billings, Bozeman/ Belgrade, Helena, Kalispell/Whitefish, Livingston, Missoula, Hamilton and Polson.

McCulloch says the whole point of all of these services is pretty basic.

“Just don’t get behind the wheel,” says McCullough,” because there’s a way to get home safe and free, and that’s the main thing.”