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.