by Travis Mateer
There is a young girl in Missoula who will probably be VERY hesitant to ride a Mountain Line bus ever again after the creep pictured below allegedly exposed himself to her last week. Now Jack Mellem is facing several felony charges, as you can see from his booking information.
The hypothetical question I have after reading the article about Mellem’s alleged sex crime is whether or not he would have been riding the bus in the first place if it meant spending some of his own money on the service. Here is how Mountain Line promotes their “Zero-Fare” service at their website. From the link:
Sounds great, right? Well, since our city leaders have a pathological need to downplay the reality of an increasing number of drug-addicted, mentally unstable people roaming around, the 1.5 MILLION RIDES number feels like a data-point smokescreen being deployed to hide any possible negative side-effects of Zero-Fare from emerging, because that might lead to questions from the public that our city leaders don’t want to answer.
I was still working at the homeless shelter in 2015 when the bus service became free, so I have a pretty unique perspective on how that shift impacted MY ability to work with people on the streets. One of the few things of value I had to incentivize goal-oriented behavior from the clientele I was trying to help were the free “day passes” that could be used for one whole day.
Since riding the bus used to cost actual money, these passes not only had monetary value, they also had leverage value, because they were dispersed by my program based on criteria that increased the chances that the service would be used by clients appropriately and constructively. I even had some difficult conversations about body odor because, believe me, that can be a SERIOUS deterrent to the non-sanitation-challenged individuals who want, or need, to use the bus service.
Maybe the reason MORE riders are desired is because it gets Mountain Line more grant money. That seems to be at least one result of increasing the number of people using the bus system, according to this article from 2019. From the link (emphasis mine):
Thanks to receiving two highly competitive federal grants, the Mountain Line bus service will soon be adding six new electric buses to its fleet,
Community Outreach Coordinator for Mountain Bill Pfeiffer said the new buses will be arriving this summer.
“We were able to get the grants thanks to the large increase in ridership we received thanks to the Zero Fare program,” said Pfeiffer. “We’re just really excited to be helping to improve Missoula’s air quality as we know that can be an issue in Missoula.
New electric buses means cleaner air, and more buses means less cars. So what if a tween has to endure a pervert showing her his junk every now and then, the price of saving of the planet is clearly worth it.
That’s sarcasm, by the way.
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Thanks for reading!