Buses fastest-growing form of intercity travel

By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY
Buses were the fastest growing mode of intercity transportation in the USA last year, outpacing rail and air travel, thanks largely to the expansion of “curbside operators” such as BoltBus and Megabus, according to researchers at DePaul University in Chicago.

Intercity bus operations overall expanded by 6% in 2010, while curbside operators — which don’t run out of established terminals but pick up and drop off passengers at curbside — grew by 23.9%, says the study by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul.

Curbside operators now have about 440 departures daily, says Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute and co-author of the study. That total does not include Chinatown operators, whose operations are harder to gauge, he says.

“There was almost a perfect alignment of the stars,” Schwieterman says. “There was a new bus model that offers super cheap fares, technological changes that made people willing to take a mode of transportation slower than air travel, and the high fuel prices.”

A major attraction of the curbside operators is access to Wi-Fi service. The nation’s major curbside operators are Megabus, which opened its Chicago hub in 2006; BoltBus, a joint venture between Greyhound and Peter Pan Lines; DC2NY Bus, which began service between New York and Washington in 2008; and California Shuttle, which operates between Los Angeles and the San Francisco area.