NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Intercity Bus Makes a Comeback

April 26, 2011

Travel by intercity bus is growing at an extraordinary pace, says Joseph Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University.

The comeback of the intercity bus is noteworthy for the fact that it is taking place without government subsidies or as a result of efforts by planning agencies to promote energy efficient forms of transportation.   Instead, it is a market-driven phenomenon that is gradually winning back demographic groups that would have scarcely contemplated setting foot on an intercity bus only a few years ago.  

  • A DePaul University study estimates that curbside operators like Megabus expanded the number of daily departures by 23.9 percent last year.
  • In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, service grew at an even faster rate.

In 2010, for the third year in a row, intercity bus service was the fastest growing mode of intercity transportation, outpacing air and rail transportation.  

  • The amount of bus service -- the total number of daily departures, inclusive of both curbside and traditional carriers like Greyhound -- grew by 6.01 percent.
  • The number of airline departures rose by about 3 percent in 2010 while the number of train miles operated by Amtrak rose by a modest 0.5 percent.

Curbside buses are also more efficient.  

  • They achieve more than 160 passenger-miles per gallon of fuel burned, making them several times more fuel efficient than commercial airplanes and private automobiles, as well as conventional diesel trains.
  • Schwieterman estimates that curbside bus service is reducing fuel consumption by about 11 million gallons annually and reducing carbon emission by an estimated 242 million pounds -- the equivalent of removing about 23,818 vehicles from the road.

Source: Joseph Schwieterman, "Here Comes the Bus: America's Fastest Growing Form of Intercity Travel," New Geography, April 22, 2011.  Joseph Schwieterman and Lauren Fischer, "The Intercity Bus: America's Fastest Growing Transportation Mode: 2010 Update on Scheduled Bus Service," DePaul University, December 12, 2010.

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