Montana Politics

What Would Happen if Montana Stopped Following Daylight Savings Time?

This morning, Montanans turned their clocks ahead by one hour for what may be the final time, if SB 206 passes the House. Under the bill, Montana wouldn’t follow Daylight Savings Time, so November would mark the last time change.

Montana would be the 3rd state not to follow Daylight Savings Time, after Arizona and Hawaii. However, those two states are bad examples to show the effect on Montana. They are both much further south, where the sun doesn’t shift as much throughout the year. Arizona is a much hotter state with the opposite problem – Arizonans don’t want to “save” daylight in the summer and would rather the sun set quicker. And Hawaii doesn’t have any borders to worry about.

Proponents of the bill talk about the time change twice a year as confusing, but switching would also create confusion, particularly in the eastern part of the state. The bill exchanges the confusion we know for the confusion we don’t.

If Montana didn’t follow Daylight Savings Time, the state would essentially be in two time zones. During the winter and spring, we would be in our normal Mountain Time Zone. During the summer and fall when the rest of the country springs ahead one hour, Montana would not. The state would be in the Pacific Time Zone with Seattle and Los Angeles.

Here’s the traditional time zone map, which would still apply from November to March:But then in March, the rest of the country would “spring ahead” and Montana and Arizona wouldn’t, resulting in this new map:

This new map has a few oddities. There would no longer be a time change when going to the Idaho panhandle, but there would be one going to Wyoming or Yellowstone. There would also be a two-hour change going into the northern part of North Dakota (by Sidney).

Eastern Montana would be the easternmost spot on the globe using the Pacific Time Zone. Sidney would be in the same time zone as Seattle as Los Angeles, even though the sun rises and sets about 1 hour and 15 minutes sooner in Sidney than Seattle.

The remaining Mountain time zone would have a curious shape: with a small section jutting into North Dakota and stopping before it hit the Canadian border.

Another way of looking at Daylight Savings Time is that in the summer, we give up an hour of light that very few people use (from 5 to 6 in the morning) to get an hour in the summer that most people use (from 8 to 9pm). The bill reverses that: we would lose an hour of sunlight in the evening to get one in the early morning.

For example, in the middle of the summer in Whitefish, the sun rises at 5:30 a.m. and sets at 9:40 p.m. If daylight savings time hadn’t been in place, both times would be one hour earlier, rising at 4:30 a.m. and setting at 8:40 p.m. Residents would lose an hour of daylight to enjoy the summer nights and gained an hour in the early morning when they’re probably asleep.

Whitefish is used here as a northern town, but any town at a similar latitude along the Hi-Line (Havre, Shelby, Malta) would be similar.  In the southern cities of Billings or Bozeman, the story is similar but the sun rises a half-hour later and sets a half-hour earlier.

Montana is far enough north that Daylight Savings Time serves us well, preventing the sun from rising too early in the morning in the summer and giving us another hour to enjoy the nice summer nights.

Winners from SB 206 and getting rid of daylight savings time:

  • Early risers, those doing business with Idaho or the West Coast, those without smartphones or computers that automatically adjust, drive-in movie theatres, and those who really hate losing a week in March.

Losers from SB 206 and getting rid of daylight savings time:

  • Long summer evenings, those doing business with North Dakota or Wyoming, downtown music concerts (Downtown ToNight, Alive @ 5, Music on the Mo), teenagers, and the continuity of the U.S. map.

Edited after publishing to correct several typographical errors.

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  • As much as I hate the time changes, this would definitely create some havoc for border areas such as ours. We live in Livingston and my fiancé works in YNP, as do many others a good portion of residents in Gardiner – living and working in different time zones would be dreadful, to say the least.

  • This article ignores one of the biggest reasons for Daylight Savings, reducing evening/night time energy usage. Peak hours for energy consumption is in the evening when everyone is home, out of school or off work. California is looking at “peak time rates” with the Smart Meters they are installing and the highest rate would be the evening hours. So, it not only saves energy but eventually will save you money as this type of program rolls out into more states.

    • This is true in the short term, but not in the long term. It is a net cost in both energy and money. In 2006 Indiana instituted daylight saving statewide for the first time. Examining electricity usage and billing since the statewide change found that daylight time led to a 1 percent overall rise in residential electricity use, costing the state an extra $9 million. Although daylight time reduces demand for household lighting (which is a minuscule percentage of the power your home draws, especially with high efficiency bulbs), the researchers suggest that it increased demand for cooling on summer evenings and heating in early spring and late fall mornings. long story short, It benefits no one and is a relic of a bygone era that needs to be done away with.

      • I actually meant to leave my previous comment on Bob’s reply above.
        Mark, however, I don’t agree with. I think Montana state-specific studies would show that the majority of Montanans and those visiting Montana between March and November are OUTSIDE. They are working, recreating, or enjoying their warmer spring evenings through the long summer evenings, then taking advantage of the fall evenings … outdoors. The person Mark describes is indoors, running their furnace or air conditioner for that extra hour in the evening because they have more daylight and are awake! Whereas, a change would have people in Montana going to sleep and hour earlier because it got darker sooner.
        The fact that Daylight Savings Time was originally geared towards farmers and ranchers does not make it a “relic”. There are still many farmers and ranchers that live in Montana. The whole thing works because Montana has SHORT SUMMERS, and people enjoy and utilize the nice, moderate weather. Our industry has greatly shifted into tourism, and this new “era” benefits from more daylight in the evening just as much as the stragglers hanging on to the “bygone” era, growing cattle and wheat and corn. (Lil bit of sarcasm)
        I personally don’t want to get up at 430am kay to get one more hour of daylight.

  • I didn’t discuss energy costs because it wasn’t clear to me which way they would cut. Many of the daylight savings time energy studies are based in Indiana or Arizona. Arizona definitely won’t apply to Montana, but we even get more variable sunlight than Indiana, because we’re farther north. In the summer, the sun’s already up before most people wake up, and the bill would just change HOW much earlier. I’m curious for the fiscal note and if the Legislative Fiscal Division is going to look at this. The fiscal note would just look at government buildings, but it would at least indicate the direction (cost or savings)

  • This is one of the most logical articles I have read on this subject. I am one who really enjoys the longer daylight in the evenings. My contention on this issue is that most people enjoy having extra daylight in the evening, but don’t like losing an hour of sleep. That part makes them grumpy. I realize there are some folks that actually like more light in the mornings, but the number of people that actually take advantage of it is relatively low. There are many more people who take advantage of the extra light in the evenings. So, why not institute DST yearlong? I realize that might be trading one problem for another, but at least we would only be confused for 4 months of the year instead of 8! Plus, we would actually have daylight after 5pm in the fall. I sure hope MT SB 206 fails, but I am starting to become concerned that it is actually going to pass. Mostly because people focus on losing an hour of sleep instead of realizing the benefits of having an extra hour of daylight in the evening. Just my humble opinion.

  • We are in a unique situation compared to Arizona. What works for 1 state at the Southern most border isn’t the same for the state at the Northern most border.

    I’m sure many of thsee things were never taken into account when they were writing the Bill. Because it isn’t about what the Montana People want it’s about what the elected officials choose to do.

    Why take away the daylight hours when families can enjoy the time together? Sleep isn’t being lost if people still go to bed at their regular time and not by what the clock says. We’ve been doing this for decades. Why screw with something that isn’t broke?

  • I love how people talk about it making the day longer, the time the sun is in the sky is the same no matter what the clock says. And it isn’t just something the elected officials chose to do without any input, somebody asked their representative to write this bill for them.

  • I wish authors would proofread their articles more. We’re in a time where it’s hard to see a professional author as professional. It is “Sidney”, not “Sydney”. The author did write it correctly once, but missed it later in the article.

  • Hunters!!! – we will have to wake up an hour earlier in the Spring to get out before the sun comes up while turkey hunting. Under the new bill I would have to leave Billings at 230 am in order to get to my spot before sunrise… No Way!!!

  • How is this going to help us in SIDNEY? When there are quite a few residents on the eastern side of the state that frequent ND, whether it’s to go to the doctor, for pleasure, or work over there. Now we would have to figure out a 2 hour time difference? Makes no sense.

  • Tyler, this is so well written, I oppose SB206 and have written letters to the House members hoping they really think about the consequences if this passes. Montana’s Spring and summer are so short, why not have 1 more hour of daylight in the evening. I just don’t understand their thinking, they lose 1hr sleep and a little inconvenience, people in other stats will have trouble figuring out what time is in Montana. I think this should get out to every newspaper in Montana, it is so well written and maybe it will get people to think about it. Daylight out at 4:00 in the morning or 9:00 at night. Please try to get this out there. You did an outstanding job in your research.

  • This article acts like they can force the sun to stay behind the horizon just by changing your clock!! The sun will rise when it rises no matter what the clock says. Somehow people survived without DST for hundreds of years….are we so ridiculous, really??

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Tyler Evilsizer

Raised in Helena, Tyler's particularly passionate about the environment, transparency, and wonky budget policy. The views expressed are his own.

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