About a dozen people came and went as the bus pulled into the station, which consists of a cash register at the ticket counter of the Shell station on North Townsend Ave., and a few benches outside.
Teenager Anthony Wilson was there, waiting to pick up his younger brother, Grayson, who is moving to Montrose from Montana, and was surprised the hear the station was closing, even though he isn’t a frequent rider.
“That’s wrong,” he said. “They’re going to lose a lot of money.”
But money is the problem, said Maureen Richardson, Greyhound spokeswoman, who said the revenue generated by the Western Slope isn’t enough to keep the route open. The last travel date on the route that goes from Montrose and elsewhere in the area to Durango and Albuquerque, will be Sept. 5, she said.
“We will still serve Salt Lake City, but that is eliminating the Salt Lake-to-Albuquerque route, which goes through western Colorado,” she said. “But they can still get there [Albuquerque] if they go through Denver, and we will still have service in Grand Junction.”
Richardson said Greyhound took a look at passenger numbers and ridership and decided it “was not strong enough to sustain service through that portion of the state.”
Greyhound is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to try to find another carrier for the route, or Greyhound “may pick the route up again at a later date,” she said.
“We’re working on CDOT to find a suitable replacement and allow it to connect into Grand Junction and Albuquerque,” she said. “There’s nothing official today, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will be able to reinstate [the route] or find a suitable replacement.”
But those plans don’t always work out, said Greyhound driver George Powell after he arrived in Montrose at the 3 p.m. pickup time, one of two stops in the town, seven days a week. He complained that buses in California have state subsidies to keep them running, but that the route from Alamosa to Albuquerque was shut down after negotiations with CDOT fell short.
“CDOT offered a subsidy, but it was not enough,” he said.
No one at the Montrose depot will lose their job, since Shell clerks sell the bus tickets, and no bus drivers will be laid off, Powell said, but several will be bumped back in seniority. The Montrose-to-Juarez route is his summer route, he said, and he drives in Texas during the winter.
All kinds of people ride his bus, but about half are Hispanics going to visit relatives, Powell said, as well as many migrant workers who come here seasonally.
“I carry a lot of people from here to Mexico; about half my riders,” he said. “And a lot of working people.”
Sometimes they become more than riders, he said, like one Mexican family making the pilgrimage to their native land every year, on his bus.
The Mexican and migrant community will be most affected by the cessation of service, said Ricardo Perez, executive director of the Hispanic Affairs Project. He met with several Mexican families Monday night, he said, and people are not happy with the news.
“Several members of our community are using the bus two and three times a year, and with the Hispanic community it is a very popular way for people traveling to Mexico,” he said. “They take the bus until the border, and because Mexico has a very good intrastate rural transportation system, it is very common.”
Many elderly people of Mexican descent also use the bus to visit relatives in other states or to travel to Denver, and they prefer the bus to flying, which is often more expensive.
With the closure of the route, Western Slope riders can still get to Juarez, but by going through Denver, and then south. But first they will have to find a way to get to Grand Junction.
“The elderly who are using it are visiting families, relatives and siblings not just in Mexico but in the U.S., in California or Houston, and they are using it because it’s very easy. They are not taking the stress of driving a long distance, and planes are expensive. This is very sad news for the immigrant community in general.
Perez said many of his riders are immigrant workers, and they will be impacted as well.
“This is very sad news for the immigrant community,” he said.
But once riders get to Grand Junction, the cost of a trip to Juarez is the same.
A ticket for Aug. 20 from Montrose to Juarez, Mexico costs $128.80, according to greyhound.com. The website didn’t give a price from Grand Junction to Juarez for Oct. 20, but on that date the cost of a ticket to Denver is $56.55, and from Denver to Juarez is $52.25, the same price as from Montrose.
But the trip will take longer, according to the website, with 18 hours and 20 minutes for the Montrose to Juarez trip, and 19 hours and 50 minutes from Grand Junction to Juarez.