Intercity Bus News Briefing, Autumn Edition 2019
Trends to Watch in Intercity Bus Travel
Premium Operators Vonlane and Red Coach Head North
Vonlane , the premium operator with 22-seat buses, meal service and a liquor license, has attracted a great deal of attention for its rapid expansion in the “Texas Triangle”. Last summer, we noted that Vonlane was greatly expanding its Austin – Houston service. Now, following Southwest Airlines’ announcement that is is ending its Dallas – Oklahoma City service , Vonlane entered that route with up to four daily trips each way on certain days, marking its first expansion outside of Texas. Fares will generally be $99 each way, more than twice the typical Greyhound fare but far less than the typical walk-up airline fare.  

Florida-based RedCoach , one of the country’s largest premium operator's continues expand its footprint. Last spring, its expanded to Atlanta from its hubs in Orlando. Now, RedCoach is adding Jacksonville service , with trips from Atlanta as well as Tampa and Orlando. In other news, LuxBus , the longstanding Los Angeles - Las Vegas luxury line, has ended service . Click here to check out our updated interactive map of the country's premium bus lines.
Minneapolis-based Landline Strikes Agreement with Sun Country Airlines
Landline , the new "nonstop" shuttle operator linking airports in Duluth, Mankato, and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MPS), caters to both the point-to-point travelers and those connecting to flights at MSP airport. Ticketed passenger enjoy the benefits of lounges resembling airport gates, free coffee and snacks, and guaranteed seating. This autumn, Landline announced a ticketing arrangement with Sun Country Airlines , a low-cost airline that operates a large hub at MSP. Passengers can now purchase interline tickets that involve bus-air connections and bus-to-plane checked baggage while also having assurances that they will be reticketed if they miss their connections. Although other bus lines have experimented with such interlining, Landline is pushing this concept to a whole new level. We will be watching this carrier’s evolution carefully due to the applicability of its business model to other regions. Landline has notable similarities to United Airlines' "United Bus" from the Allentown and Newark airports. One difference: the United Bus departs Newark from a gate behind TSA security, while Landline uses waiting areas outside of security.
Flixbus Expansion Moves into New Phase
Munich-based Flixbus continues spread its reach across the United States. As noted in our 2019 Outlook, the discounter launched in the Southwest last spring before expanding to Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Utah, and the hotly contested New York – Washington market.  Since then, it launched a New York -Boston service, which it began in September, and Columbus, OH – Pittsburgh – Washington service, which launches this month and marks it first foray into the Midwest.  Next up : Miami – Orlando and Tulsa – Oklahoma City – Dallas and the Pacific Northwest, all of which began this month. Some regard Portland – Seattle route, with highway distances of 174 miles, as almost ideal of frequency bus and travel. Amtrak and Boltbus are currently the major players on this route. Boltbus has also been on the move, adding Friday/Sunday Corvallis (OR) – Portland service in October.
Oregon’s Announces Funding to Rural Intercity Service; Illinois adds New Route
The State of Oregon remains a leader in providing state and federal financial support, including those from the Federal Transit Administration’s 5311f program, to improve and expand the state’s intercity bus network. In July, it announced $1.3 million in 5311f funds to sustain and expand service in the state as well as commission a planning feasibility study for service from Klamath Falls to Redmond, a distance of 154 miles. Oregon stands out for longstanding commitment to integrating urban, rural, and remote locations into an interconnected rail and bus system.  Performance results publicized in September indicate that bus ridership in Central Oregon provided by Cascades East Transit has more than doubled since 2014, reaching more than 674,000 annually, in part due to new service offerings, including several new routes to Bend. 

Federal funds from the 5311f program also made possible new Greyhound service in Illinois linking Rockford, Rochelle, Bloomington and other points. This service caters to workers in the expanding logistics business in this part of the state. 
Brisk Expansion in the Northeast
The Northeast continues to be one of the county’s hottest intercity bus markets, a trend we featured in our 2019 Outlook report

Peter Pan has launched a direct Boston-Washington, DC route on Fridays and Sundays via Philadelphia and Baltimore.  Greyhound Lines has a new once-daily State College, PA-Harrisburg-Baltimore-Washington route, which complements is existing service linking Harrisburg to the nation’s capital.  Ourbus has several new offerings, including Princeton, NJ - Washington (with several intermediate stops) and New York - Richmond, VA (via Washington and Fredericksburg, Springfield, VA) and New York – Boston and New York – Lehigh Valley/Reading . Niche operator Coach Run entered the New York - Washington, DC-Richmond market with several intermediate stops as well.

Several cutbacks, principally involving points in New England, took effect.  Greyhound eliminated its Philadelphia - Albany route (running via Newark and George Washington Bridge September).  Peter Pan eliminated most of its local stops north of Danbury, NY in Connecticut on its route linking New York City to the Berkshires, which has shortened running times by around 45 minutes each way.
Letter from the Editors
Dear Transportation Professionals,

In the five months since our last Intercity Bus Briefing, scheduled providers have picked up the pace rolling out new conveniences and services. The latest happenings point to renewed investor interest in this fuel-efficient and flexible mode of travel.  

Greyhound has rolled out new LCD departure monitors at Chicago and more than 50 other stations, giving passengers an experience more closely resembling airports--but without the hassle of security lines. The information is also available on the carrier's BusTracker app and website. Passengers previously often had to settle for static signs and PA announcements to find out where and when to board their bus.

Seamless air-to-bus connections—including checked baggage transfers—are now provided by Landline, the Minneapolis-based “nonstop” shuttle provider. Fast-growing Flixbus now reaches New England, the Ohio Valley, and other new points. New state-subsidized services bring bounty of affordable bus travel to more places, while several premium bus lines, most notably Florida's Red Coach and Texas' Vonlane, have added still more routes.  
The biggest players remain in transition, but there is an undercurrent of optimism.  FirstGroup plc is moving ahead with its plan to sell Greyhound. The U.K. company remains mum about exactly when that will take place, but prospective buyers are searching for ways to unleash the iconic brand’s value.  Flixbus, on the other hand, has made known that it is not among them.

California-based California-based Variant Equity , having acquired Megabus and the rest of Stagecoach's North American operations in Spring, has demonstrated its commitment to Megabus by sustaining its role as a major player in the country's largest markets through slower winter season. The carrier even added a new city, Ft. Myers, on its Miami – Orlando – Tampa route in September. Those are certainly very good signs. 

So take a deep breath. Yes, “cheap fuel” is giving a boost to auto and air travel. And yes, driver shortages are creating headaches for schedulers and immigrant traffic from the border has ebbed. But the latest news is good: the intercity bus is galvanizing its position as a vital travel option.

Joe Schwieterman and Brian Antolin

Note: A previous version of this Update had the wrong company listed as the seller of Greyhound. U.K.-based FirstGroup plc, the owner of Greyhound, announced the sale in May 2019.

Check out the Chaddick Institute's widely read research on the intercity bus industry. This free report is published annually by Joe Schwieterman and Brian Antolin , and the latest analysis shows some interesting new developments.

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