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Not Your Grandfather's Greyhound: Buses Take Off for Inter-City Travel
BoltBus rolls up into New York City. Photo by Somewhat Frank.

"Bolt for a buck" -- by bus! -- to New York City. Photo by Somewhat Frank.

Buses are a transportation success story, according to this article in the New York Times.

Last year, the story says, bus service increased by 5 percent, and it rose nearly 10 percent in 2008, according to research led by Joseph Schwieterman, from Depaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, whose findings have been featured in a long line of news articles over the past year, hearkening the arrival of an inter-city bus renaissance. Catchy headlines abound: “Thinking Outside Rails and Runways, and Taking the Bus“; “Planes, Trains … and Buses?“; “The Rebirth of Buses: N.Y. to D.C. for $1“.

The New York Times highlights popular long-distance services like BoltBus and Megabus, which offer cheap express service between major cities like New York City and Washington, D.C., and offer added bonuses like online ticketing, guaranteed seats, curbside departures, and on-board technology (i.e. free Wi-Fi.) Who ever said buses can’ t be cool?

Nancy Kete, the former director of EMBARQ (the producer of this blog) commented on the potential of bus travel when the Obama administration first announced its high-speed rail plan. “The President is on the right track,” she said, “But there’s a missing mode in the plan. To complement rail, we also need to help cities build high-quality, high-capacity bus rapid transit systems, which can offer good high-speed service, but at a fraction of the cost of rail.”

In response to the recent New York Times article, Kete comments further on the importance of complementing bus service with the right bus infrastructure:

This article is about how the market has found and is expanding the missing mode, without a lot of public sector attention or subsidy. But to really make express, intercity bus work well, cities need to create protected corridors for buses or bus and other high occupancy vehicles so that these high capacity travelers don’t get stuck in traffic as they arrive at the city edge and move from the edge of town and into the downtown. Planned right, these corridors could be shared with local bus rapid transit systems, which could provide the same kind of express, congestion-free access to local commuters. All this would cost far less time and money than the alternatives — and certainly are better than the dominant alternative of doing nothing to ease traffic congestion except make more road space for private cars.

It’s also important to note that specific policies can help manage congestion, as well.

Joe Schwieterman himself advocates for congestion pricing: “The public understands that unpredictable traffic conditions make everyday driving like a game of roulette. Congestion pricing is about the only weapon we have in our arsenal to encourage more efficient use of our expressways [and tollways].”

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  • carl

    My Personal thoughts on Greyhound is “No its not your grandfathers Bus.” Back then, they looked out for their passengers. Now, Its all about Profits! This week my mother booked a round trip from VT to NY they booked her on a bus transfer that didn’t exist! Resulting in a missed bus and another 13hours of travel. When I called the station their reply was its not their fault it’s in the system! I then was insulted by saying she would never put her mohter on the bus….. Afterward when I called their customer service dept I had three people hang up on me. .

  • Pingback: Intercity Bus Travel on the Rise in the U.S. and Abroad | TheCityFix.com()

  • Sunil Dhuri

    I am a transportation planner myself, I work for a Private consulting firm in NYC. I used to take the Bolt Bus once a week to commute between NYC and Boston for a Class in Harvard Extension School. This was best decision I made. I could take rest, study, do homework and work on my laptop, which I couldn’t have done driving. not to mention, the commute was at fraction of the price of driving considering gas, parking, tolls and maintenance costs of the car.
    -Sunil

  • That’s cool! I didn’t know it existed. Thanks for the link!

  • michel brah

    don’t forget the aggregator, http://www.busjunction.com

  • Thanks for this comment! The World Resources Institute, where EMBARQ (the producer of this blog) is based, actually conducted a study comparing bus rapid transit to light rail for a local project here in Maryland. Indeed, enhanced buses would actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to the other proposed options. Check it out: http://www.embarq.org/en/news/09/01/28/press-release-enhanced-buses-best-option-dc-area-%E2%80%9Cpurple-line%E2%80%9D-wri-finds

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  • This is great news. The bus is the greenest form of transport (apart from walking and Cycling). It is even greener than trains. Long live the boom!

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