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Intercity Bus Cuts Due to Pandemic

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Willbridge

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I haven't seen announcements and operating bulletins are incomplete, but...

Greyhound Lines has gone to less-than-daily service on additional once-a-day lines. The one change that was bulletined, Table 502 - Spokane<>Portland, was effective July 23rd. They'll depart Spokane X67 and Portland X56.

Table 509 - Spokane<>Ellensburg<>Seattle is X34 from Spokane and X23 from Seattle.

Table 509 (also) - Stanfield/Pasco<>Ellensburg<>Seattle is X17 from Stanfield and X67 from Seattle.

Table 545 - Salt Lake City<>Las Vegas is X23 from Las Vegas and X34 from Salt Lake City.

There might be more. Flix was competing on Seattle<>Spokane, but that has not been restored since their pandemic shutdown.

For those not familiar with the geography, the Stanfield <> Seattle route is a connection from SLC and DEN and points east. The attached photo is the transfer when there were two trips daily on both DEN<>SLC<>PDX and the Seattle branch.

P1040058.JPG
 

Willbridge

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Further reference GL<>Amtrak; as of August 22 Greyhound has not updated their ticket sales site to blank out the Reno<>Salt Lake City rail bridge on the days it won't run. (Enough negatives!) Most of their tickets are sold on short notice, but they do offer lower fares for advance purchases. I found the Trains 5/6 connection daily into November for Greyhound reservations.
 

bms

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Megabus has cut back a number of routes and looks like it is in financial trouble. I got an email from Megabus asking me to show my support for the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act (CERTS Act). "If passed, the CERTS Act will allow us to continue providing reliable travel to you with your safety at top of mind." They still are running some routes but haven't served Ohio since the pandemic started.
 

Exvalley

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For kicks I checked a Flix Bus reservation for tomorrow between Boston and New York. On the screen to reserve a seat, the bus shows as being basically empty. They must REALLY be hurting.
 

railiner

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Boston/New York is an incredibly competitive market for all modes of transport...perhaps the most competitive of all....
 

metrolinecoach111

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Boston/New York is an incredibly competitive market for all modes of transport...perhaps the most competitive of all....
On a passenger demand side, it's in the Top 5 for sure.

NY-DC is higher - if we're taking the entire Metropolitan DC region (+30 miles), it's 2.5x the size of NY-BOS.
On Sunday January 12, 2020, there were 169 departures from Metro NY to Metro DC operated by 12 different brands (10 different companies).
There were only about 1/3 operating from Metro NY to Metro Boston operated by 8 different brands (7 different companies).

That said, NY-DC is "likely" not the most competitive market. While we can't verify because several carriers do not publish schedules, cross border services operating between Laredo, TX and Nuevo Laredo, MX carry as many passengers, if not more.
 

metrolinecoach111

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For kicks I checked a Flix Bus reservation for tomorrow between Boston and New York. On the screen to reserve a seat, the bus shows as being basically empty. They must REALLY be hurting.
Every carrier in that corridor is averaging at or below 50% capacity (25-30 ppl) for peak day schedules, 30% (15-20ppl) capacity for midweek. There are outliers for sure, but that's the general consensus.
 

railiner

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On a passenger demand side, it's in the Top 5 for sure.

NY-DC is higher - if we're taking the entire Metropolitan DC region (+30 miles), it's 2.5x the size of NY-BOS.
On Sunday January 12, 2020, there were 169 departures from Metro NY to Metro DC operated by 12 different brands (10 different companies).
There were only about 1/3 operating from Metro NY to Metro Boston operated by 8 different brands (7 different companies).

That said, NY-DC is "likely" not the most competitive market. While we can't verify because several carriers do not publish schedules, cross border services operating between Laredo, TX and Nuevo Laredo, MX carry as many passengers, if not more.
I have not studied this as well as you apparently have...thanks for the info....
 

jebr

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Megabus has dropped their schedule to 1x/day (from 4x/day pre-COVID) between MSP and CHI. They're also hard-pricing their tickets (after the first $1 promotional fare) at $69.99 each way. That price is higher than the saver Amtrak fare for that route and the Greyhound price for that route (which is also now hard-set at $50-$52, instead of generally being in the $20-$30 range.) Greyhound has also cut from roughly 4x/day to just 2x/day, with none of the routes being "express" like before.

I'm not sure if the pricing is set in such a way as to try and only get essential travelers who'll basically pay any price, or if they're just not seeing enough demand to price the trips more competitively. Generally speaking, it's cheaper to book a flight MSP - CHI (at least more than a couple days out) than it is to take the bus there.
 
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Willbridge

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I should have written up some of the earlier cutbacks. GL Table 600 ends at Portland now, instead of Seattle (Table 601 Portland<>Seattle<>Vancouver, BC vanished.) They transfer the Washington passengers to the lone BOLT bus that runs Portland<>Seattle with intermediate stops. My dad, who is 97, is one of the few people who can remember when that always happened (Pacific Greyhound Lines owned by the SP connected with North Coast Lines owned by the former Seattle area interurban company). The problem with doing that today is that BOLT is in a separate part of the Greyhound Lines computer and so the information is not in all channels.

The lone BOLT bus takes 4:50 with six stops. It's the classic travel time problem when buses have to get off and on limited access highways. The lowest fare on Thursday, August 27th for EUG>SEA is $57. On Train 500 it's $58 and Business Class is "sold out." On Train 14 it's $75 ("3 left at that price").

On the PDX/SEA <> Spokane service cut to 5 days a week, an informed source told me that GL was looking at ways to combine the two routes. Flix was running one trip a day from Portland to Spokane and Couer d'Alene via Seattle before the curtain fell on them. At the end of June Flix restored one PDX<>SEA trip 5x a week with intermediate stops.

This whole situation reminds me of watching a car crash in slow motion.
 
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Willbridge

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Just shaking my head over the fall of the bus industry, as I knew it.....😟
In the 1975 Oregon Intercity Bus Study we spotted the trend, but tiptoed around the issue. There never was a final report because the new governor was a friend of Bill Niskanen, Sr (president of Pacific Trailways). I don't know that he ever issued an order to that effect, but the way top bureaucrats keep their jobs is by not doing anything that might rock the bus. So we junior people printed hundreds of copies of the draft to fill requests.

If I survive the pandemic and housecleaning attempts, I want to write another LinkedIn essay, this one about the decline of the intercity bus industry. One of the repeated phenomena is that there is only one generation of customers shifted over from a discontinued rail service to the competing bus service. Then the bus service is cut back or restructured. The process sped up with the 55 mph speed limit, then the big GL strike, the collapse of Trailways, deregulation and now the pandemic. Each time the industry has come back smaller, with some routes gone.

One of the problems that faces the interests who for the past 50 years have tried to do in the long-distance trains is that all of the transcontinental routes that have survived have long stretches with no parallel Interstate and bus riders loathe riding on old US or state routes. So the population at intermediate points sees their towns being abandoned if the trains are discontinued. That'll go into that essay.
 

MARC Rider

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Just shaking my head over the fall of the bus industry, as I knew it.....😟
You'd think the climate change activists would be on top of this issue, as supporting intercity coaches is probably the easiest way to get people out of cars in most of the less dense parts of the US. (which is most of the US, even the smaller cities.)
 

railiner

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One of the problems that faces the interests who for the past 50 years have tried to do in the long-distance trains is that all of the transcontinental routes that have survived have long stretches with no parallel Interstate and bus riders loathe riding on old US or state routes. So the population at intermediate points sees their towns being abandoned if the trains are discontinued. That'll go into that essay.
Indeed...lots of good points. One illustration of this was the initial selection of the Empire Builder route, over the North Coast Limited route in part because the "Hi-Line" had no Interstate Highway...

I hope you do get around to producing that essay...

Here's an interesting study, sent to me by another member...


 

metrolinecoach111

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I should have written up some of the earlier cutbacks. GL Table 600 ends at Portland now, instead of Seattle (Table 601 Portland<>Seattle<>Vancouver, BC vanished.) They transfer the Washington passengers to the lone BOLT bus that runs Portland<>Seattle with intermediate stops. My dad, who is 97, is one of the few people who can remember when that always happened (Pacific Greyhound Lines owned by the SP connected with North Coast Lines owned by the former Seattle area interurban company). The problem with doing that today is that BOLT is in a separate part of the Greyhound Lines computer and so the information is not in all channels.

The lone BOLT bus takes 4:50 with six stops. It's the classic travel time problem when buses have to get off and on limited access highways. The lowest fare on Thursday, August 27th for EUG>SEA is $57. On Train 500 it's $58 and Business Class is "sold out." On Train 14 it's $75 ("3 left at that price").

On the PDX/SEA <> Spokane service cut to 5 days a week, an informed source told me that GL was looking at ways to combine the two routes. Flix was running one trip a day from Portland to Spokane and Couer d'Alene via Seattle before the curtain fell on them. At the end of June Flix restored one PDX<>SEA trip 5x a week with intermediate stops.

This whole situation reminds me of watching a car crash in slow motion.
About a year back they integrated BOLT into Greyhound's core TRIPS system, where it now corresponds and coordinates with Greyhound. Though separate brands, they are now effectively a Greyhound service running a Greyhound route (at least for the time being).

The current BOLT route is Portland-Seattle-Bellingham via all the Greyhound stops on I-5.

Why run a BOLT schedule instead of Greyhound? Money and branding. BOLT pre-pandemic not only ran more service and carried more passengers, but made a significant percentage more than all of the GL branded services in the PNW combined and has a better brand perception to the riding public.

Yes, there were efforts pre-pandemic to "streamline" that particular route and the entire region in general. Lots of chatter, but no results.
 

metrolinecoach111

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You'd think the climate change activists would be on top of this issue, as supporting intercity coaches is probably the easiest way to get people out of cars in most of the less dense parts of the US. (which is most of the US, even the smaller cities.)
The biggest problem intercity buses have is public perception, for better or for worse.
In the minds of many, still to this day, the bus is the lowest transport mode in the hierarchy of options - the option of last resort.
 

MARC Rider

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The biggest problem intercity buses have is public perception, for better or for worse.
In the minds of many, still to this day, the bus is the lowest transport mode in the hierarchy of options - the option of last resort.
Well, that's true, but such perceptions could be changed through both effective propaganda and by some changes in the hard and soft product offered by the bus operators. But it might require some public funding, at least at the edges, which is why some agitation from the climate change folks would be politically helpful, given that a full intercity bus is extremely CO2-efficient on a tons per passenger mile basis.
 

jebr

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Well, that's true, but such perceptions could be changed through both effective propaganda and by some changes in the hard and soft product offered by the bus operators. But it might require some public funding, at least at the edges, which is why some agitation from the climate change folks would be politically helpful, given that a full intercity bus is extremely CO2-efficient on a tons per passenger mile basis.
This is anecdotal, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the regional brands have a better reputation than Greyhound or even Megabus. I know Jefferson Lines does quite a bit of marketing, including some radio spots, and I've even had family members ask about Jefferson Lines even though they've sworn off Greyhound based on the advertising they've heard on the local radio. Do some digital marketing to draw in younger generations, and have a decent on board product, and you've got a recipe for success. (I know I have a much more favorable opinion of Jefferson Lines than Greyhound, and wouldn't mind them taking over the lone Greyhound route left in Minnesota to Chicago.)
 

railiner

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This is anecdotal, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the regional brands have a better reputation than Greyhound or even Megabus. I know Jefferson Lines does quite a bit of marketing, including some radio spots, and I've even had family members ask about Jefferson Lines even though they've sworn off Greyhound based on the advertising they've heard on the local radio. Do some digital marketing to draw in younger generations, and have a decent on board product, and you've got a recipe for success. (I know I have a much more favorable opinion of Jefferson Lines than Greyhound, and wouldn't mind them taking over the lone Greyhound route left in Minnesota to Chicago.)
I think your perception is spot on, and it has been that way for a fairly long time. 'Family owned' bus line owner's, have a management that takes a greater interest in the reputation of their company, and good customer service. They often take a 'hands on' approach, to manage their property, and get to know their employees, as well as their customer's personally. They are active participants in their communities civic affairs, and just seem to care more, in general....
 
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