Posted: Mar 24, 2013 1:17 PM by Bernie Riggs - MTN News
MISSOULA - The U.S. Department of Transportation's decision to take a Billings-based bus company off the road due to safety concerns left many passengers in the lurch on Saturday.
One man at the Missoula bus depot said that the Rimrock Stages suspending its operations said he'd been rerouted an extra 600 miles.
Meanwhile, an Idaho mother drove three hours to pick up her daughter, and almost everyone at the Missoula bus depot has been delayed over 24 hours.
Dozens of travelers heading west into Washington on Saturday found that what was supposed to be a quick morning transfer, turned into a full-day pit-stop.
On passenger, Lisa Reich from New Mexico, said she paid $250 for her ticket, but now was stuck.
"That's a lot of money for a round-trip ticket, for a one-way ticket, to be stranded for hours and nobody really knows what's going on. That's not right."
Many of the people we talked with said they experienced mechanical issues during their ride from North Dakota into eastern Montana, before being delayed again in Billings.
"Then we found out that D.O.T. shut 'em down, but they didn't tell us anything about it. They just kept us guessing and waiting," Ryan Lybarger said.
Lybarger says he spent Friday night sleeping on the floor in the Billing bus depot, and in addition to the discomfort, he says the delays have cost him financially.
"I've lost almost two days' worth of work. I'm sick and tired of messing with this."
We found that for some passengers stuck in Missoula, the delays have cost even more.
"My grandfather passed away and I was going home for the funeral. I was supposed to be a pallbearer, and I wasn't able to make it," Spencer Ebert told us.
It's not clear if any of the stranded passengers will receive compensation for their troubles.
"There's nothing you can really do about it. You just deal with it. It's all you can do and hope we get to our destination.," Reich said.
A ticket clerk with Rimrock Stages told me the company is trying to make charter accommodations for all of its stranded passengers.