Cheap U.S. buses lure travelers from rails, sky with new frills

Sun May 11, 2014 12:44pm EDT
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Forget the grimy terminals and uncomfortable buses of the past. Discount U.S. carriers are luring a new generation of riders from young tourists to business travelers with amenities such as free Internet and leather seats.

By offering low prices and picking up passengers curbside in hip neighborhoods, discount bus companies have reversed a long decline in ridership and are gaining ground on trains and planes.

The low-cost niche started with companies offering cut-rate fares between the Chinatown sections of New York and Boston. It took off eight years ago when major carriers such as, a unit of Britain's Stagecoach Group Plc, arrived, offering online bookings and tickets as a low as $1.

"It's really a whole new mode of transportation. There's been nothing quite like it, and it has been made possible by the Internet," said Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at Chicago's Depaul University.

The number of daily curbside departures in the United States has doubled since 2010 to more than 1,000, a Chaddick Institute study found. Intercity bus ridership overall has been on the rise since 2006, after having declined since 1960, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The newfound popularity is spreading to business class, with upscale services offering non-stop intercity travel to a variety of areas across the United States.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire's C&J bus company launched a once-a-day service to New York three years ago for business travelers. It now runs twice daily, with more than 2,000 passengers a month, owner Jim Jalbert said. and its rival BoltBus "have created huge new markets and they've also created a competing mode to passenger rail," he said. "You can move a lot of people in a big manner."   Continued...

A Megabus and a Boltbus buses cross paths in New York City May 8, 2014.      REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz