Intercity Bus News Briefing, Summer 2020
From the Editors
Dear Transportation Professionals,
 
Our years of observing the twists and turns of American transportation prepared us little for the global pandemic’s effects on scheduled passenger transportation. In the four months since we published  Making Connection: 2020 Outlook for the Intercity Bus Industry in the United States , the world has changed. At one point, in April, intercity bus ridership was apparently more than 90% below normal levels.  
 
Our hearts go out to those have devoted their lives to improving this vital mode of travel only to see some of that work nullified by the virus. Unlike airlines, which generally have deep pockets and ready access to capital, many bus lines are small and family run.  Although some operators receive subsidies for rural service, nearly all schedules in major corridors are run without public dollars.  Adding to the sector’s difficulties, Washington has treated the sector badly, as this  Pew Research article  shows, omitting it from critical CARES Act funding. Furthermore, “v-shaped” recovery we had hoped to see by now hasn’t yet happened. 
 
Encouraging Signs 
 
At the same time, there are many encouraging signs. Passenger demand on routes not involving major metropolitan areas appears to have fared better than comparable rail and air services—a testament to the essential role bus service plays among households that lack private motor vehicles. Some bus lines have the benefit of owning their equipment outright, while others were able to suspend leases on equipment, which adds to their ability to withstand the crises. Personnel have also found ways to disinfect coaches at reasonable cost. Plus, there is hope intercity bus lines will be prominent in the next federal coronavirus aid package. 
 
The path to recovery is also becoming clearer. Scheduled bus lines appear to be better positioned to gradually add back service than airlines and Amtrak. Most ticketing for bus trips occurs within a week of departure, so bus lines can avoid the “guessing game” that airlines must play when publishing schedules. Rather than committing to a schedule months in advance, as airlines must do, bus lines can hedge their bets, finalizing their schedules just a week or two in advance. Many carriers, indeed, are regularly changing their schedules and adding trips to meet intermittent demand. Similarly, whereas bus lines often can cover their short-term variable costs (e.g, fuel, labor, and vehicle cleaning and servicing) with a handful of passengers onboard, airline and railroads often must attain much higher loads to cover such costs.  
 
The “Bounce Back” We Expect
 
The pandemic will have long-term effects, yet we remain optimistic that bus travel is bouncing back. The speed in which this will happen remains to be seen, and its “back to the basics” in the near term. But the flexibility and versatility of bus travel give it a bright future. To help weather the storm, the American Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association, and others are working to support federal legislation that includes $10 billion in grants and emergency relief for the motor coach industry, a package expected to be considered by Congress this month. In this issue of  Intercity Bus E-News , we summarize the moves made by major bus lines with regard to their summer schedules. We welcome reader feedback. Stay safe!
 
Sincerely,
 
Joe Schwieterman and Brian Antolin

Joe Schwieterman, Ph.D., is professor and director, Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University . Brian Antolin is CEO of CoTo Travel and co-author of DePaul’s annual Outlook for the Intercity Bus Industry report
Recovery Strategies of Intercity Bus Lines
Information we gathered through Friday, June 26, 2020 suggests carriers are beginning to add back service, but at differing rates. Please note that some of the information provided is based on secondary sources or informal schedule analysis.  
National Carriers
Greyhound   is operating roughly 40% of its spring 2019 mileage. In early April, the company had a mostly “bare bones” operation, limited to about 35% of its network, based on the company’s comments in  USA Today , with service being largely state supported routes plus routes (with minimal frequencies) connecting core regional hubs. To facilitate connectivity, the company also operated certain long-distance “though routes” that link the hubs and state services. We expect the company to add back mileage slowly, perhaps reaching 50% of 2019 network mileage by August, depending on the trajectory of health-related concerns.
Megabus   is operating roughly 15% of its spring 2019 mileage. Many routes out from Chicago and Los Angeles will remain out of service until mid-July at the earliest. In the Northeast,  service levels are expected to increase after July 4 th , bringing it to roughly 25-30% of its pre-COVID levels on major routes, including New York – Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. Other regions, including most of the Southeast (Florida and Georgia) and Texas, have either intermittent schedules or regular service limited to a fraction of normal levels. Services on many of these routes was completely, or almost completely, shut down for about six weeks. 
Flixbus,   after suspending U.S. service, is adding schedules, albeit at what appears to be a more gradual rate than Greyhound or Megabus. Most routes relaunching in June have one or two daily frequencies . Many services that Flixbus has restarted involve busy corridors, such as Los Angeles – Las Vegas. On Friday, June 26, in each direction in the Northeast Corridor, connecting Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Richmond, VA.
Regional Carriers
OurBus   is offering two routes: i) a New York to Buffalo via Binghamton and Ithaca service, typically once daily in each direction, and ii) a route between New York and Washington that cross-sold with BestBus, which is offered weekends only, with weekday service returning in July.
Dattco continues to operate a limited commuter service linking Massachusetts’ South Coast and Boston for essential workers.
Peter Pan having relaunched in early June, appears to be running about 25% of its normal network mileage, with corridor services to/from New York and Boston accounting for the majority of service. Most schedules are five days a week, Thursday - Monday.
Go Buses restarted its New York - Virginia service last week with one roundtrip, weekends only. Service between NY, New Haven, Providence and the Boston Metro Area is scheduled to return in early July.
Go Bus Ohio has continued to operate its network of services within the state at reduced seating capacity 
Trans-Bridge restarted bus services between Lehigh Valley points and New York in early June.
Martz Trailways  recently scaled up its Poconos -New York service, it now also serves Scranton and Wilkes Barre, PA.
Trailways of New York   has gradually reactivated its New York state network, growing from limited schedule New York City to Kingston and New Paltz to also include Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo and other points .
Shortline (Coach USA)  has restarted commuter bus services between the Hudson Valley (New York and New Jersey) and New York, although its intercity service to Ithaca, Binghamton and the Southern Tier of Upstate New York remains suspended.
Fullington is relaunching service across Pennsylvania in August.
Burlington Trailways   has continued to operate its network of services throughout the Midwest. In June, however, it announced the elimination of Galena, Rockford, and Stockton, IL service. Click  here for other updates about Illinois.
Washington Deluxe  is expected to restart operations on June 29 with limited standard class service between New York and Washington.
Sprinter Bus  is expected to restart operations on July 1st offering limited service on its New York – Norfolk/ Virginia Beach, VA route. 
Premium Operators
Vonlane   relaunched service connecting Austin, Dallas, and Houston in late May with limited frequency, with routes to Fort Worth, Oklahoma City and San Antonio to be added on July 1st. The Texas-based line has placed on hold its previously announced expansion to Atlanta and Nashville .
Hampton Jitney relaunched its service connecting New York City and Long Island in late May.
Red Coach   has continued limited service on its intra-Florida routes throughout the pandemic, but suspended Atlanta service.
Vamoose relaunched intercity service between New York City and points in Maryland and Virginia in mid-June and is currently offering limited standard and Gold Bus trips. The carrier is offering about 20% of its normal schedule.
ROX Bus. Bucking the trend of scaled-down service levels from the pandemic, ROX Bus, a new premium operator, launched in June. Offering a 2x1 seating with food and drinks served by an onboard attendant, the company offers twice daily roundtrips between Virginia Beach, VA and Pentagon City, just outside of Washington DC
This is only a  partial and non-technical assessment of recent scheduling patterns. Further research is needed to develop a more precise assessment. Readers should review online schedules or reach out to carriers for more extensive and up-to-date information.  
Rural Transit Day is July 16, 2020; RTAP Twitter Chat
The National Rural Transit Assistance Program reminds all that the second annual Rural Transit Day will take place on July 16. It will hold a  #RuralTransitDay Twitter Chat that day from 2 -3 p.m. ET, moderated by Julia Castillo, Executive Director, HIRTA Public Transit, Kari Banta, Section 5304 Program Manager, TX DOT, and Angie Jones, District Manager, Grant County Transportation District (People Mover). The chat will focus on what agencies are doing to recognize passengers and staff on  #RuralTransitDay throughout the year, and shared thoughts about challenges and solutions for rural transit.  RSVP to receive an invite. Visit RTAP’s  Rural Transit Day web page to learn more about this special day.
Now Available! Interactive Map of State Based Intercity Bus Services
The USDOT is making available an  interactive map of State Based Intercity Bus Service. We highly recommend this tool, which puts carriers, stations, and routes onto a single map. 
Check out the Chaddick Institute's widely read research on the intercity bus industry. This free report is published annually by Professor Joe Schwieterman and Brian Antolin , and the latest analysis shows some interesting new developments.


Also, be sure to check out the Chaddick Institute Report “ 21 Key Takeaways on Partnerships between Public Transit Providers and Transportation Network Companies ”, released in April. 
Email chaddick@depaul.edu to join our listserv to receive 3-4 emails per year regarding emerging trends and topics in the intercity bus industry!
Jessica Kupets
Intercity Bus Team Member
Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development
DePaul University
312-362-5732