Posts Tagged ‘intercity bus service’

Pandemic Has Depressed Bus Ridership, Too

December 26, 2020

Airlines and rail passenger travel have not been the only modes of transportation to see devastating plunges in ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nation’s intercity bus network has suffered a corresponding decline with ridership falling by more than 80 percent.

Peter Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association, said the industry is operating at about 10 percent of capacity.

He estimated that 85 percent of the 100,000 people who work in the bus industry have been laid off or furloughed since last March.

Greyhound bus lines, one of the nation’s largest bus operators, is operating less than half of its normal bus routes and has seen its revenue fall by nearly 60 percent.

In a statement, the venerable bus company said it has imposed temporary and permanent route closures and laid off workers.

“Our ability to provide critical service to communities—especially those that are underserved and/or rural—has been reduced,” the statement said.

Officials at Wanderu, a travel website, said that unlike airlines bus companies did not get much boost from the Thanksgiving travel period.

Industry observers say few people are interested in riding buses because it means spending hours with strangers in tightly enclosed spaces.

This could prove to be trouble for an industry that operates on thinner profit margins and has less financial cushion to weather the pandemic than the major airlines.

Even commuter bus services have suffered because many workers who once took a bus from their suburban homes to work are now working from home.

Also losing business have been companies that offer rides to major events, including concerts and sporting contests.

They’ve had to park their buses and lay off staff because the pandemic has all but wiped out the events that gave them business, including ferrying touring musicians.

Those who do ride the bus these days are facing higher fares. The U.S. Department of Labor said intercity bus fares last month rose 18 percent.

Bus travel is still less than other transportation modes, but given that much of bus ridership tends to be lower income patrons that could cause a hardship for some.

“This is a mode of travel that caters to people often who can’t afford cars — that need to go at the least possible cost from point A to point B,” said Joe Schweiterman, a professor in the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. “If prices jump, it might be out of reach.”

Greyhound Suspends Bus Service to Akron

April 3, 2020

Greyhound bus lines has suspended service to Akron and several other Ohio cities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A service alert posted on the company’s website said the service suspensions are due to a drop in demand, particularly in the Northeast.

The notice did not say when the suspensions became effective, but a check for service from Akron found no service available.

Greyhound is continuing to operate between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus.

Among the other cities at which service has been suspended in Ohio and surrounding states are Ashtabula, Battle Creek (Michigan), Burns Harbor (Indiana), Lima, Mansfield, Morgantown (West Virginia), West Salem (Ohio) and Youngstown.

Bus stations have been temporarily closed in several cities but will continue to operate as bus stops for pick up and drop off:

Tickets from these locations must be purchased online at Greyhound.com, on the Greyhound mobile app or at a full service location.

No stations in Ohio still with service have been closed but those in surrounding states that are affected include: Allentown, Pennsylvania; Beckley, West Virginia; Bowling Green, Kentucky; East Lansing, Michigan; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Lansing, Michigan; London, Kentucky; Muskegon, Michigan; and Southfield, Michigan.

A number of other bus companies have also suspended service during the pandemic including Fullington Trailways in Pennsylvania and Megabus to New York City.

FlixBus to Make Columbus First Midwest Stop

November 13, 2019

A German company will begin intercity bus service to Columbus on Nov. 14.

FlixBus, which began operating in the United States in 2018, will launch service from Columbus to Pittsburgh and Washington.

The service will use Central Ohio Transit Authority’s downtown Spring Street Terminal.

The Columbus route is the first into the Midwest for FlixBus, which operates in similar fashion  to Megabus, which ended service to Columbus nearly three years ago.

Most FlixBus service is to points in the Northeast, South and West.

In a news release, FlixBus described its purpose as seeking to change the way people travel.

“We want to show people how inefficient it is to use your car for long-distance trips in the age of high gas and parking prices, traffic and low mileage leases,” said managing director Pierre Gourdain in a statement.

He said riding the bus is a convenient and comfortable alternative allowing passengers to work, relax or sleep while they travel and save money.

FlixBus plans to operate a daily early morning trip to Pittsburgh with fares between $9.99 and $14.99.

Fares to Washington range from $24.99 to $29.99.

Connections could be made in those cities to such destinations as Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Richmond, Virginia.

German Bus Company to Enter U.S. Market

November 16, 2017

A German long-distance bus company says it plans to begin service in the United States in competition with Greyhound, Megabus and Amtrak.

FlixBus said it will be based in Los Angeles.

“There is a significant shift in the American transport market at the moment. Public transportation and sustainable travel is becoming more important,” FlixBus founder and manager Andre Schwaemmlein said in a statement.

FlixBus has been a major player in European long-distance bus service since 2013 and has survived a fierce price war among new market entrants to boost its market share in Germany.

A Reuters news service story said FlixBus has more than 90 percent market share and its bright green motor coaches are a common sight on German roads.

FlixBus does not own any of its buses but instead works with local and regional partners.

That is similar to how Megabus operates in the United States. Owned by Britain’s Stagecoach Group, Megabus began U.S. service in 2006.

One of its chief competitors, Greyhound, is owned by a British company, FirstGroup PLC. Greyhound carries 18 million passengers a year with a fleet of 1,700 vehicles.

By contrast, Amtrak carried 31.3 million in fiscal year 2016. Figures are not yet available systemwide for FY 2017.

FlixBus did not say when it would begin service or what routes it would serve.

DePaul University Study Finds that Akron, Columbus, Dayton are Among Transportation ‘Pockets of Pain’

August 25, 2017

Columbus has been identified in a study as one of the nation’s most prominent “pockets of pain” when it comes to intercity public ground transportation.

The capital of Ohio ranks toward the top of the list because of its lack of Amtrak service and express bus service.

It was joined by another state capital, Phoenix, which also lacks Amtrak service. Also on the list are Akron and Dayton.

Amtrak’s New York-Kansas City National Limited halted in Columbus and Dayton for the last time on Oct. 1, 1979. Megabus pulled out of Columbus this past January.

The study was released by Chicago-based DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

It focused on large cities that lack rail and express bus connections to other major cities. Cities outside Ohio that also made the list included Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fort Myers, Florida.

“Columbus has been cursed in terms of ground transportation, largely because of geography,” said Joseph Schwieterman, co-author of the study and director of the Chaddick Institute. “It’s a little far from cities such as Chicago and Washington to make bus service a good success.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • Cleveland-to-Columbus is the fourth-busiest route (ones with the most point-to-point travel) in the country that lacks both intercity express bus service and rail service.
  • Chicago-to-Columbus is the seventh-busiest such route.

“The study validates what we already knew: The central Ohio region does have gaps in ground transportation options for passengers connecting to other regions,” said William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. “That is why we are working hard with our community partners across four states, including Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

“These efforts include a Columbus-to-Chicago passenger rail connection and the Midwest Connect Hyperloop Corridor (Pittsburgh to Chicago via Columbus), as well as (other) regional efforts.”

Last year, Columbus won the national Smart City Challenge and was awarded $40 million by the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million by Vulcan Inc. Another $90 million has been pledged by a Columbus public-private partnership, bringing the total to $140 million.

That funding was not intended to go toward development of conventional rail or bus intercity service. However, Schwieterman said the Smart City projects can only help.

“Innovation in urban areas could morph into providing true intercity service,” Schwieterman said. “It’s only a matter of time before services like Uber and Lyft start offering van service between cities, for example.”

He also believes the federal government should track ridership of private express bus services the way it does with airline passengers in order to better understand the demand on various routes.

Schwieterman would like to see local governments encourage bus service by helping companies establish convenient curbside stops and providing incentives to renovate bus stations.

“Some people will consider an express bus, but are resistant to taking Greyhound,” Schwieterman said. “It’s a culture change.”

To see the study, go to http://bit.ly/2xd2LEb

Megabus Leaving East Lansing

December 29, 2016

Amtrak will have one less competitor in East Lansing, Michigan, after Megabus stops its service between there and Chicago on Jan. 9.

megabusMegabus, which is known for its low fares, currently stops at the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway, which is also used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan Blue Water.

Lack of customer demand and a corporate restructuring were behind the decision to pull out of the East Lansing-Chicago market, said Megabus spokesman Sean Hughes.

He also cited low fuel prices and competition from other bus companies.

Hughes indicated the Megabus will be cutting other routes serving Chicago next month.

Other bus companies that operate between East Lansing and Chicago include Greyhound and Indian Trails.

Megabus currently also serves Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids in Michigan.

News reports have indicated that Megabus will also cease service in Iowa in January where it stops in Davenport, Coralville  (near Iowa City) and Des Moines on a Chicago-Omaha, Nebraska, route.

Greyhound Moving to Toledo CUT on June 15

June 7, 2016

Greyhound will begin using Toledo Central Union Terminal on June 15. It won’t be the first bus service at the facility, which is also served by four daily Amtrak trains.

Amtrak Thruway buGreyhoundses have been using the station for several years.

The Port Authority is undertaking a $500 million renovation to accommodate Greyhound at the now named Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza.

Amtrak’s Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington) and Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York) stop at the station, which opened in 1950.

End of Megabus Cleveland-Cincinnati Service Just Another in Long Line of Service Retrenchements

February 15, 2016

The news that Megabus in early January ended service linking Cleveland with Columbus and Cincinnati was not the first time that the cut-rate bus line has retrenched in the Cleveland market.

Back in March 2013 Cleveland was one of 10 Megabus hubs with service to 15 cities. You could have traveled to Atlanta; Pittsburgh; Akron; Buffalo, New York; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Detroit; Toledo; Chicago; New York; Columbus, Cincinnati; Lexington, Kentucky; Knoxville, Tennessee; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and State College, Pennsylvania.

MegabusBut now most of that service is gone. The only Megabus route left in Cleveland travels east to New York with an intermediate stop in State College and west to Chicago with an intermediate stop in Toledo.

Unlike Greyhound, which makes frequent stops on its routes, including in small towns, Megabus operates much like an airline with limited intermediate stops and relatively few cities served.

In Ohio, it serves Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, linking all of those cities with Chicago.

The route from Columbus makes intermediate stops in Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Launched on April 10, 1996, as a brand of Coach USA/Coach Canada, Megabus offered low fares and curbside pickup rather than using brick and mortar bus stations. In some cities, Megabus stops outside railroad stations, transit centers or shopping centers.

The initial route network fanned out from Chicago and included service to Cleveland.

Four years later, the Megabus business model began making a transition from a hub and spoke orientation to a point-to-point model.

Also like airlines, Megabus uses yield management to set fares. Although it has attracted much attention with its $1 tickets, Megabus imposes a $1.50 per transaction fee for tickets purchased online. Tickets can also be purchased by phone, but cannot be bought from bus drivers.

Shortly after it began serving Cleveland, Megabus added a stop in Toledo on Sept. 11, 2006, to its route M3 between Chicago and Cleveland.

Megabus extended the route to Pittsburgh on April 2, 2007, but ended the Pittsburgh service that September due to low ridership.

Cleveland-Pittsburgh service resumed on May 2011 with a stop in Akron. Service was six roundtrips with connections in Pittsburgh to such eastern points as Washington, New York and Philadelphia. The Pittsburgh-Cleveland route continued west to Detroit via Toledo.

The Akron stop was dropped on March 13, 2012. However, the next day, Megabus began a route linking Cleveland with Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The high water mark of Megabus service in Cleveland came in August 2013 when it launched a route to Atlanta that included stops in Columbus, Cincinnati, Lexington, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

It took 15.5 hours to get to Atlanta and one of the two buses making the trip left Cleveland at 2:30 a.m.

At the same time, Megabus also launched service to Erie, Pennsylvania, and Buffalo, New York.

The Cleveland Megabus stop was initially behind Tower City at West Third and Frankfort.  It also picked up passengers on the north side of Prospect Avenue.

On August 1, 2013, it began using the Cleveland RTA Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center, at 2115 East 22nd St. That enabled passengers access to public transportation and to have a sheltered place to wait for the bus.

Megabus said it was handling 13,000 passengers a month in Cleveland. Some buses used in the service were operated by Cleveland-based Lakefront Lines.

Service to Ann Arbor, Detroit and Pittsburgh ended in May 2014. “Unfortunately due to insufficient ridership service, the Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit-Ann Arbor route was discontinued on May 6,” said Sean Hughes, associate director of corporate affairs for Coach USA/megabus.com North America, in an interview at the time with The Plain Dealer.

By then, service had also ended to Buffalo and Erie.

A check of the Megabus website revealed that the company favors large cities and large colleges.

In West Virginia, for example, the only city served by Megabus is Morgantown, the home of West Virginia University.

In Pennsylvania, Megabus serves Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and State College. The latter is the home of Penn State University.

In Michigan, you can catch Megabus out of Ann Arbor (home of the University of Michigan), East Lansing (home of Michigan State University) as well as Detroit and Grand Rapids.

Nonetheless, Megabus serves just one city in Indiana (Indianapolis) and one in Kentucky (Louisville).

Indiana is a curious situation given that the bus from Indy to Chicago goes up Interstate 65 right past Lafayette and West Lafayette, the latter the home of Purdue University.

The Plain Dealer article reporting Megabus was ending service from Cleveland to Columbus and Cincinnati said lower gasoline prices was a contributing factor because many of the company’s passengers are affluent enough to own a car.

High gasoline prices and air travel hassles had just a few years earlier fueled a rise in intercity bus ridership.

A study by the Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Development at DePaul University in Chicago said the rise of discount city-to-city bus carriers had accounted for much of the increased ridership.

The head of the Chaddick Institute, Joseph Schwieterman, told The Plain Dealer in 2014 that for Megabus to leave the Cleveland-Pittsburgh market meant “Demand must have been intolerably weak.”

“Megabus doesn’t pull out of many markets,” said Schwieterman, a professor of public service management.

The Chaddick study found that the emergence of Megabus and other low-cost carriers had prompted Greyhound to upgrade its buses and emulate their business models.

GreyhoundYet there remain many key differences between passengers who ride Greyhound versus those who ride the so-called curbside bus lines.

Greyhound passengers are 39.8 percent female versus 52.3 percent female on the curbside carriers.

On Greyhound, 36.1 percent of the passengers are ages 18 to 25 compared with 47.8 percent on curbside carriers. Business is the purpose of 23.5 percent of those on Greyhound compared with 16.4 percent of those on curbside carriers.

An overwhelming percent of passengers on both types of carriers said they planned to use computers or mobile devices during their trip, 84.9 percent on Greyhound and 91.3 percent on curbside carriers.

Megabus has been in and out of markets before and every time it pulls out, it says it might come back.

In an interview with The Plain Dealder, Mike Alvich, vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus said the company continually assesses its routes.

“There are no guarantees,” he said. “We are a private business. We live or die based on ticket sales. We start routes based on our best research. Sales have to support operational costs. That’s one of the city pairs that did not work for us. But that doesn’t meant we won’t come back.”

Megabus dropped California service in 2008 and returned in 2013.

Schwieterman said Megabus has done best in heavily urbanized areas, between cities that are between three and six hours apart, and in places where parking is scarce and expensive.

“The Cleveland to Pittsburgh route might have been a little short to lure people out of their cars,” he said. And both cities are automobile-oriented towns.

Greyhound in 2010 launched its “Greyhound Express,” offering nonstop service between urban centers, guaranteed seating and such on-bus amenities as wireless Internet access and electrical outlets.

A visit to the Greyhound website leaves the unmistakable impression that this isn’t your grandfather’s bus company.

Nonetheless, Greyhound continues to have the image of being the transportation choice of last resort for travelers who cannot afford alternatives even if the number of small towns served by Greyhound has greatly diminished over the past three decades.

Megabus has a younger, more affluent clientele than Greyhound but Schwieterman said the differences between the two companies “are becoming more blurred all the time.”

Although Schwieterman said in that 2014 interview that the growth years of bus travel were behind the industry, “plenty of travelers are still discovering the bus. And millions of travelers have yet to discover the bus.”

Megabus Cuts Cleveland-Columbus Route

February 4, 2016

Megabus has quietly dropped its Cleveland-Columbus route due to declining ridership.

Also ended was service between Cleveland and Cincinnati. The route had operated twice daily between Cleveland and Atlanta with intermediate stops in Columbus, Cincinnati and points in Kentucky and Tennessee.

MegabusSean Hughes, director of corporate affairs for Megabus North America, told The Plain Dealer that the route was discontinued in early January.

“It wasn’t performing to expectations,” he said. “We had to make a change.”

Hughes said the Cleveland-Columbus leg did well and may be reinstated in the future. “If we choose to expand at some point, that route will be one we’ll look at,” he said.

Greyhound also operates a route linking Cleveland and Columbus.

Megabus has one route left in Cleveland, which runs westbound to Toledo and Chicago, and eastbound to State College, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

In mid-2013, Megabus served 15 cities from Cleveland, including Ann Arbor, Michigan; Pittsburgh; Detroit; and Buffalo, New York.

Megabus is noted for low fares with some as low as $1 one way.

GoBus Adds Service to Wooster

June 16, 2015

An intercity bus service based in southern Ohio that specializes in serving rural communities has expanded its route network into Wooster and Wayne County while at the same time increasing service out of Cleveland.

GoBus recently launched a route between Columbus and Wooster with twice-daily service provided by Lakefront Lines.

The route has stops at the Port Columbus Airport, Columbus Greyhound Station, Newark, Mt. Vernon, Gambier, Berlin and Wooster.

At the same time, an existing route operated by Barons Bus Lines runs once daily between the major cities of Chicago, Columbus, and Cleveland began serving Van Wert in western Ohio.

It will make stops in Marysville, Kenton, Lima, Delphos, and Van Wert.

The GoBus program began operating to Cleveland, Akron and Canton this past March.

There are two routes that originate in Cleveland. One route extends to Charleston, West Virginia, and includes intermediate stops in Akron, Canton, New Philadelphia, Newcomerstown, Cambridge, Caldwell and Marietta in Ohio and in the West Virginia cities of Parkersburg and Ripley.

The other Cleveland route runs to Athens and has intermediate stops in Parma, Broadview Heights, Akron, Canton, Mt. Eaton, New Philadelphia, Newcomerstown, Cambridge, Caldwell, Marietta, Parkersburg, Coolville, Athens and Ohio University.

Both routes are operated by Barons Bus Lines. GoBus also sponsors service linking Columbus, Athens, Parkersburg and Cincinnati.

Tickets may be purchased at the bus stations in major cities, from the driver or online at ridegobus.com/gobustickets.

GoBus Intercity Bus Service is a collaboration between the Federal Transit Administration, Ohio Department of Transportation, and Greyhound, and is administered by Hocking Athens Perry Community Action.