Intercity Bus Special Bulletin, August 7, 2020
Motor Coach Industry in Dire Condition
Transportation professionals,

This special Intercity Bus E-News bulletin is being sent to draw attention to the severity of the situation now facing our country’s motor coach lines. Since our last E-News dispatch, a wave of shutdowns has rocked the sector. A few examples: Coach USA is permanently closing Lakefront Lines, the largest bus company in the state of Ohio, which will eliminate 339 jobs. Many commuter bus companies remain shut and those that have restarted are operating at a fraction of normal service, as low as 10%. New Jersey’s DeCamp Bus Lines, which carried more than 1.5 million commuters annually in an out of Manhattan before the pandemic as well as operates many charter trips, is suspending the last of its service tomorrow.

Bus lines are being delivered a one-two punch. First, the modest rebound enjoyed in June has stalled. According to Polina Raygorodskaya, CEO of Wanderu, a leading ground-travel metasearch platform, the demand for bus-ticket purchases in July was still less than 20% of that during that same month in 2019 (see Figure 1 below). Demand for charter is less than 10% and does not appear to be coming back before the end of 2020 and well into 2021.
Second, the value of equipment has taken a nosedive, leaving balance sheets in precarious shape and making borrowing more difficult. Unfortunately, loans offered through the CARES Act, which might have closed the gap, have been so restrictive that many carriers opted not to pursue them. 

Our assessment, informed by research provided by the American Bus Association, indicates that, 30-40% of the national bus network could disappear without financial relief. Underserved populations, including people of color, rural communities, people with disabilities and older Americans, would be cut off from their most affordable source of mobility and prevented from participating fully in the economy. We are staring at that possibility, perhaps only a few weeks away.

Having discussed the situation with several industry leaders, including Peter Pantuso, President and CEO of ABA, it has become clear that a coordinated governmental response is needed. The gap the federal aid provided to public transit, airports, and air carriers and that provided to motor coach operators needs to be closed to avoid large-scale closures. 
Relief will require assistance on multiple fronts but must include aid in next federal stimulus bill, which is now being formulated. What happens on Capitol Hill is impossible to predict, so we are stepping up our outreach to policymakers. We hope you do the same, helping spread the word about the sector’s worsening situation.  

Many jobs hang in the balance.  Research prepared by Dunham & Associates for ABA indicates that without a strong recovery (and
without governmental financial
relief), 78% of jobs in the charter-bus sector will be lost during the next year and around 65% will be lost in the commuter, scheduled, and shuttle-bus sectors. Bus manufacturing is also being reduced to around 10-15 percent of normal, and will likely be the same in 2021 or worse, impacting bus manufacturing jobs as well as those jobs for suppliers, including engines, tires, windshields, and air conditioning.
Please scroll down for newly available data provided to us from provided to us by Terry Cordell of Transcor Data Services and Wanderu. You will also find details on the service cutbacks and issues around the country, organized by region. We thank Brian Antolin and these companies for obtaining and providing this information, disturbing though the latest results may be.
Stay safe,

Joe Schwieterman
Professor and Director
Chaddick Institute at DePaul University 
Figure 1: Market Demand for Scheduled Bus Service in the U.S., Provided by Wanderu  

U.S. Market Demand for Bus Travel Year over Year comparing 2020 aggregate demand, an internal metric derived from user searchers, passenger reservations and other proprietary metrics, from February to July as a percentage of 2019 aggregate demand during those time periods (Y axis).
February ------------------------------------------------------------->July

Credit:, Polina Raygorodskaya, CEO, via email communication on August 6, 2020
Figure 2: U.S. Bus Ticket Sales, 2020 vs. 2019, Provided by Transcor Data Services

This chart, provided to us by Transcor Data Services (TDS), shows the steep decline in bus ticket purchases throughout most of the United States 2019 vs. 2020.  The blue lines represent 2019 sales, while the orange lines track 2020 sales.  This information was compiled and aggregated from TDS’s clients, who operate in most areas of the country, but not all.  

Credit: Terry Cordell, CEO, Transcor Data Services (TDS) via LinkedIn communication, August 7, 2020
Be sure to subscribe to our intercity bus newsletter to receive 7-8 emails per year regarding emerging trends and topics in the intercity bus industry. Email to join our listserv. Click here for our recent intercity-bus publications.

The Chaddick Institute is an independent voice that does not receive funding from intercity bus lines or their suppliers.