Golden Triangle Transit, better known as Northern Transit Interlocal (NTI), is a no-cost transit system consisting of four local transits. NTI, Toole County, Glacier County, and Pondera County Transit have been in operation since 2007. Over the last few years, ridership numbers have been steadily increasing, with more than 16,000 riders utilizing the service last year. NTI’s mission is "to provide safe, clean, and efficient transportation." NTI was awarded Montana's Rural Transit of the Year in 2018, for its commitment to service, safety, and growth.
NTI bus service is available for everyone in need of transportation in the Toole, Pondera and Glacier County service area. There are riders from Shelby, Sunburst, Cut Bank, Browning, Conrad, and Valier. There are currently nine buses operating, with 82% of the riders being under the age of 60. Each bus is equipped with an ADA mechanical lift to provide for those that require assistance with a walker or wheel chair.
Many citizens depend on NTI to get them to and from medical appointments scheduled in Great Falls and Kalispell.
With the unforeseen circumstances due to COVID-19, NTI is operating a little different these days.
For the meantime, rides are only being provided for crucial needs, such as doctors appointments, grocery shopping, pharmaceutical necessities, etc. Riders must make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance, which can be done right off the Facebook page, or by calling 406-470-0727 during business hours.
The pick up times and routes remain the same, however, if there are no reservations, the bus will not run that route.
In recognition of the social distancing recommendations, the number of riders allowed on the bus has been cut by at least half, only one person per seat, with the exception of small children and couples.
Riders are also required to wear a face mask for the entire duration of the trip. Masks will be provided for those who do not bring their own.
Food and drinks are not allowed, except water bottles with caps. It is going to be a process getting back to full operation and starting with essential services is a great place to start.
NTI is funded with annual grants from the Montana Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration. It also receives generous contributions from businesses such as Benefis Hospital (Great Falls), Kalispell Regional Medical Center, and Town Pump. Donations are welcome and help NTI to continue to grow and thrive.
"Our goal has always been to educate the people in our local area on how our schedule of routes can work for them in their daily lives," said David Irvin, NTI Director/Coordinator. He expressed his appreciation to the local newspapers and radio stations for their support.
The transit offers convenient scheduling, with two buses running to Great Falls and Kalispell each week. For a complete schedule, see: https://northern.rural-transit.com.
“I felt safer riding with NTI, then driving myself," said Steven Franklin of Browning.
The NTI staff is very friendly and works hard to ensure the cleanliness of the buses and safety of the passengers. "I cannot believe how nice the bus was for 'free' transportation. I felt like I was on a tour bus, very, very pleased," said Arthur Richardson of Conrad.
Irvin set a goal for NTI to become completely self-sufficient. With the amount of riders continuously increasing, he expects to reach 20,000 riders in the near future. NTI will soon add a 38-passenger bus to its fleet. The bus will have 12 seats reserved up front for the elderly and more vulnerable passengers.
Crystal TalksAbout shared, “I highly recommend this transit service to everybody who needs to get out of town for shopping, appointments, or who just need a ride home."