Intercity Bus News Update
Passengers prepare for a RedCoach departure for Tallahassee, FL at the carrier's Orlando station near Orlando International Airport in autumn 2020
"Two Cheers" for Coronavirus Economic Relief
It’s “two cheers” for $2 billion set aside mostly for motorcoach operators in the Coronvirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act. This federal allotment is far short of the $10 billion the American Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association, and others advocated. Still, the funding does come at a pivotal time. It will partially close a financial gap that has left many bus lines teetering on a financial cliff. Some have already tumbled off, and if more follow suit it could cripple mobility for vulnerable segments of society. We thank all who helped get this funding included in the legislation.
The phrase "motorcoaches" is used loosely in the media coverage of the legislation. It encompasses private school bus operators, charter buses, tour operators, scheduled bus lines, and private commuter lines. Private passenger carrying vessels (e.g., ferries) are also lumped into the mix, further dividing the pot. Funding will likely come in the form of both grants and loans, although critical details are not yet clear.
A Burlington Trailways bus bound for Moline, IL is in the final stage of boarding process at Galesburg, IL
Buses by the Numbers
Exactly how much of the $2 billion will be divided remains to be seen. Nearly all over-the-road bus operators have taken a severe financial hit, many anxiously waiting for a recovery that has been slow to materialize. 

To appreciate the mismatch between the $2 billion provided and actual needs, consider that based on our estimates the revenue loss for scheduled intercity bus lines alone could exceed $1.5 billion during the first year of the pandemic. Additionally there will be further losses in Pandemic Year 2.  Prominent lines such as Greyhound, Indian Trails, FlixBus, Jefferson Lines, Megabus, and dozens of other lines are doing their best to provide quality service in face of enormous hardship. 
A queue forms in front of a Megabus double-decker at the Washington Union Station bus facility
Without dwelling on the inequities of recent federal legislation, suffice it to say that passenger airlines have received (or are set to receive) more than ten times as much direct support as all types of over-the-road bus operators combined. Billions more have been awarded to airports. The relief offered to the motorcoach operators, based on our calculations, has been proportionally far less than the sector deserves.
A CoachUSA bus at Austin, TX, operated for Megabus, awaits its departure for Houston in September 2020.  
Scheduled intercity buses are vital to lower income groups, including essential workers. They cater heavily to those who choose not to own cars or cannot afford to own a car. They lessen congestion in busy travel corridors and provide the only form of scheduled transportation to many cities and more than a thousand smaller towns.   
In our view, the $10 billion requested would have been more in line with the support provided to other modes than the modest sum provided in the CERTS Act. Scheduled intercity buses should not have to take a backseat to other modes of transportation as the U.S. Congress looks the other way.
Stay Tuned

Stay tuned as we keep track of how quickly scheduled bus lines can turn the corner as COVID-19 vaccines and rapid testing becomes more pervasive. We are eager to see what path will be taken by this fuel efficient and environmentally favorable mode of travel.

Stay safe and stay optimistic.
Joe Schwieterman
Brian Antolin
Intercity Buses Offer Holiday Bargains
By Crystal Bell and Joe Schwieterman
The critical role of intercity bus service in providing affordable transportation options to those with limited economic resources is evident in our newly collected data for the cost of travel in late November and early December 2020. This analysis identified the lowest fares available for travel on direct routes departing during daytime hours (8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.) in a stratified sample of 20 heavily traveled routes ranging from 100 - 525 miles (via highway) in length.  See below for details of our sample.
One way bus fares were found to consistently be below those for intercity rail and far below airline travel fares. 
- Bus fares, on average, were $16 less than train tickets for three day advance purchase and $6 less on 10 day advance purchases for travel in late November and early December 2020. 
- Bus fares were only a fraction of air fares in both the three day and seven day advance purchase scenarios.
- The savings from using bus travel grows for those that purchase tickets at the last minute, with the savings averaging more than $75 each way compared to a last minute airfare purchase.  
- The upper bound on bus fares tends to be relatively low. The most expensive “lowest fare” observed was a $91 Greyhound ticket three days in advance for travel on Saturday, November 28, during the Thanksgiving holiday. That fare was for the Denver, CO to Salt Lake City route, a 510 mile trip, making it the longest route in the sample.  Although Greyhound had no direct bus or rail transportation competition on the day we observed (as Amtrak is tri-weekly), it still charged less than 18 cents per mile, which is below the variable cost of driving a medium sedan (gas, tire wear and other operating costs). 
We will have more information about our results in our 2021 Outlook for the Intercity Bus Industry report in late January.

Notes on data collection: The analysis considered the lowest fare bus or train option between 8:30am and 4:00pm (local time for the departure city), with the options considered were limited to those no more than 90 minutes longer than shortest trip anytime during the day.  

Sample of markets. Atlanta, GA – Nashville, TN*, Boston MA - New York, NY, Chicago, IL – Detroit, MI, Chicago, IL - St. Louis, MO, Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX - San Antonio, TX, Dallas/Ft Worth, TX* - Houston, TX, Denver, CO - Salt Lake City, UT, New York, NY– Washington, DC, Buffalo, NY- New York, NY, New York, NY– Pittsburgh, PA, New York, NY- Providence, RI, Miami, FL – Orlando, FL, Milwaukee, WI-Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, Los Angeles - San Francisco, CA+, Los Angeles, CA – Phoenix, AZ, Portland, OR – Seattle, WA, Seattle WA – Spokane, WA, Memphis, TN - New Orleans, LA, Philadelphia, PA - Washington, DC

Symbols: * no Amtrak, + Used Oakland, CA for Amtrak fares
Coming soon!  Expect an email with our 2021 Outlook for the Intercity Bus Industry slated for release on January 26, 2021. 
Join the Rural Transit Assistance Program for a webinar on Rural Transit Planning in the Time of COVID and Beyond on January 14, 2021, 2:00-3:30 PM, presented by Ken Hosen of the KFH Group, who will walk participants through planning efforts that rural and tribal transit agencies can undertake through three phases: 1) During the pandemic, 2) Recovery from the pandemic and 3) Post-pandemic. It will also cover transit planning basics and best practices. Click here to register.
Send Crystal an email at to join our Intercity Bus Listserve and receive 8 – 10 emails per year. No spam. Invite your colleagues!