We’ve said this before: the face of intercity bus travel is changing. The popularity of buses, in general, is gaining ground for a number of reasons. In cities from London to Los Angeles, buses are benefiting from sleek new designs, transit agencies’ marketing and rebranding campaigns, the use of social media to increase ridership, and new and improved services on longer bus routes.
Megabus (owned by Stage Group) and BoltBus (owned by Greyhound Inc. and Peter Pan Bus Lines) are two companies who have each served millions of customers since they started service over the last several years.
These intercity bus lines offer cheaper fares than Amtrak and air travel while providing other amenities like wireless internet. The bus systems also offer travelers the opportunity to use cell phones and can be less cumbersome when factoring the travel to and from airports and security checkpoints. In some ways, buses are out-competing and out-edging other services by being more responsive to changing city dynamics and commuter needs.
According to a recent USA Today article, “bus companies are aggressively pursuing business travelers” to compete with Amtrak and airline companies.
Plus, these newer bus companies have the ability to act nimbly in selecting stop locations, and targeting specific groups and commuters. For example, BoltBus stops on its way to New York City in Greenbelt, Md. (on the Green Line of the D.C. Metro), Baltimore, Md. and then in New York City’s Penn Station; as opposed to Amtrak, which stops on the Red Line in Union station (farther downtown) and then heads to Penn Station for prices as much as $225 for same-day fares. (A week-in-advance search yielded fares for $75.) BoltBus is flexible for ticket purchases, as well. Riders can buy same-day tickets (depending on availability) for about $15 to $20. Plus, BoltBus rewards the first passenger to book a seat on each of its East Coast routes with a $1 fare. The service is so useful that New Haven, Conn. attempted to lure the bus company to the region last year.
Shifting the Image
Greyhound has also undergone a significant rebranding and redesign, influenced by its part-ownership of BoltBus. The company removed five seats in new buses to give riders more than a foot of extra legroom. Greyhound, too, offers wireless internet and power outlets.
For travelers in the Southeast, RedCoach overs high-end service with only 27 seats per bus, personal tables and reclining seats.
For some Americans, bus travel remains a last resort; people associate it with seedy bus depots, uncleanliness and cramped quarters.
But others can’t resist the price. Megabus.com, an intercity bus operator serving 17 Midwest cities and 11 Northeast cities, says “the number one reason our customers travel with us is our low fares.”
In Israel, Egged Ltd. is another example of a widely used transit option between dense and closely spaced cities. Half of all Israelis use the bus service that offers a monthly pass and 3,033 service line buses to 1 million daily passengers.
Intercape covers a network of major cities and towns in South Africa. The company offers discounts for families, youth, elderly, students and backpackers. However, recent press has exposed the bus company’s poor accident record and stirred complaints about “irresponsible broadcasting” from right-wing evangelical passengers.