Posted: Mar 29, 2013 5:18 PM by MTN News
Two out of state bus companies are stepping in to restore statewide bus service, after Billings based Rimrock Stages bus fleet was shut down last Friday for safety violations. Jefferson Lines, a Minnesota-based company will begin running one round trip from Billings through Butte to Missoula starting Saturday, March 30th.
And as early as next Friday, Salt Lake Express, based in Rexburg, Idaho, hopes to start two additional round trips between Billings and Missoula that Rimrock Stages has been operating. One of the trips will go through Helena.
Since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shutdown Rimrock Stages, a rider planning to travel between Spokane and Minneapolis would have been forced to detour through Salt Lake City and Denver. Moreover, riders in Montana communities with no alternative connections like Great Falls, Helena, and Bozeman were completely stranded.
The different players are looking at the logistics of reestablishing connections for Rimrock Stages' other routes, including Great Falls-Helena-Butte, Whitefish-Kalispell-Missoula, and Billings-Dickinson-Bismark-Fargo. But they say the Whitefish-Kalispell-Missoula route will likely be the most difficult to reestablish. Since last weekend, Lisa Ballard of Current Transportation Solutions has volunteered her time to act as a central point of contact and facilitator for the parties involved.
At Rimrock's request, Ballard has provided Jefferson Lines and Salt Lake Express with a list of Rimrock's bus drivers so that the new operators can choose to hire experienced Montana drivers who know the routes. Current Transportation Solutions has also created a temporary website with updates and information about the situation.