Resurgence of Inter-City Bus Routes

Inter-city bus travel is increasing after decades of decline. Driven, presumably, by higher oil prices, the increasing hassles of flying, and increasing congestion on the interstates, new routes are being established and new companies are popping up. And the buses generally show movies (like on airlines) and offer WiFi. Not surprisingly, the growth is mostly between relatively dense urban centers in the range of 100-300 apart–far enough to make driving a real nuisance, not quite far enough to make suffering the hassles of flying worthwhile (not to mention it’s much cheaper, and in some cases probably doesn’t take much longer given how much time we spend sitting in airports).

This is actually old news now–DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute has been tracking this for several years now. But I didn’t know about. Did you?

I wonder if they have a flight drive attendant handing out ice water and lemon drops, like the inter-city buses in Syria?

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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12 Responses to Resurgence of Inter-City Bus Routes

  1. I didn’t know about this trend, but in the last two years or so, my girlfriend and I have used Megabus a lot to go to visit friends and relatives in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. (No, I’m not shilling Megabus.)

    Also, in Colorado, at least since the late 1990s, there has been regular (every hour or half hour) bus service between Denver and Boulder. It’s not a huge distance and probably doesn’t count as “intercity bus service” as much as it is “metropolitan area bus service.” But it was certainly a godsend when I got my masters at CU and was able to live with my parents for free while commuting to Boulder. (I did it for only one semester, but I saved a lot of money.)

  2. D. C. Sessions says:

    I didn’t know about. Did you?

    Sort of. One of the boys was an undergrad at a school about a day’s drive away, in a small town — no need for wheels. For a while he came home on holidays by bus, then Greyhound cut service to the town he was in, and just recently re-established it. Too late to matter, that last — but since I’m planning to move there anyway I keep track.

    Busses are a poor second to rail, but for now rail has a hard time competing with the Interstates in the West.

  3. Scott Hanley says:

    At my commuter lot, there’s a stop for the Megabus between Detroit and Chicago and it seems to be quite popular. A ticket for tomorrow would cost me $38, but I could get one for late July at only $3, if I’m willing to arrive after 11:00 pm. It’s a pretty nice deal if you can plan ahead and be flexible.

    I think I could handle a four-hour trip on a bus, but anything much longer would be tough. I’m still scarred from the Great Greyhound Horror Trip of 1990 ….

  4. Lance says:

    “I’m still scarred from the Great Greyhound Horror Trip of 1990 ….”

    I spent the worst two days of my life in a semi-conscious contortion on a Greyhound trip from Indianapolis to Provo Utah. My fellow travelers included recently released convicts and mental patients. I thought it would never end. At times I prayed for death (and I’m an atheist.)


    The eighteen hour flight from D.C. to Addis Ababa is refreshing compared to that slow, rambling, diesel powered nightmare.

    You can keep your Megabus, what ever that might be.

  5. James Hanley says:

    Lance–Well I’m glad to see that all of Indiana’s felons are moving to Utah. That’s the best news I’ve heard in years.

    Scott–$3? That’s amazing. I saw $21 for about 3 weeks out, which isn’t too bad (although I can do Amtrak for only a few dollars more). But I would guess that big holidays–the events that most people can plan ahead for on their travel–would cost more. Still, for $3 you could make the purchase on spec, just hoping you’ll be available to go. And since my kids keep clamoring to go back to Chicago sometime, that would be by far the cheapest way to make the trip–one of the very few cases I can think of where taking the whole family is cheaper by transit than by car.

  6. Lance says:

    That trip was over twenty years ago. Many of the felons and mentally ill have probably made their way back to the Hoosier state and re-offended or been committed or elected to public office.

    I have also taken the Greyhound from Indy to Chicago, and while much slower than driving yourself, due to stops along the way in Lafayette, Gary, and Hammond, it wasn’t the nightmare of the Utah trip. I think there is also an express, for a bit more, that would be about the same time as driving.

    Still, I’m a car guy.

    I really hope that public transportation takes off though. I envision open roads and cheap gasoline thanks to reduced traffic and lower fuel demand. Just me and the myst (Amharic for wife) in my Ferrari blasting down the interstate at triple digit speeds while the unclean masses are whisked to their mundane destinations, packed like cattle in electric powered aluminum cylinders, faces glued to i pods, on rails safely off to the side of the gloriously vacant road.

    Unfortunately nearly all of the plans to “motivate” Americans to abandon their automobiles involve punitive taxation or other draconian measures to forcibly separate people from their cars.

    It is an article of faith of the environmental left that cars are evil. They will tolerate electric cars only as a stepping stone to ubiquitous public transportation (preferably solar powered and only to be used when absolutely necessary).

    Most of my colleagues in the physics department are of the leftist persuasion. Once I came in on a conversation on how the government should mandate hybrid or electric cars.

    I know them all and what they drive.

    Not one of them owns a hybrid or electric vehicle. Among the three of these enlightened gentlemen that wanted to force everyone else to drive a hybrid or electric vehicle they own two honking SUV’s, a large van, a full sized pick-up truck, a sports sedan and a turbocharged V6 sports car.

    When I gently reminded them of their own automotive conveyances they bristled. They of course had good reasons for owning these gas hogs and saw no hypocritical irony in the fact that they wanted the government to impose these tiny penalty boxes on everyone else. I imagine that they thought they would be granted exemptions to continue their profligate ways, perhaps on the grounds that they recycled their glass and plastic waste and subscribed to PBS and NPR.

    My car is my freedom. I’ll give up my steering wheel when you pry it from my cold dead hands. At least until personal aircraft or teleportation become affordable options.

  7. My car is my freedom. I’ll give up my steering wheel when you pry it from my cold dead hands. At least until personal aircraft or teleportation become affordable options.

    For me, not owning a car is my freedom. I forsake a car not for environmental reasons, but because it is much cheaper for me not to have one. I live Chicago, and most of the places I need to get to are accessible by public transportation or walking. Fortunately, I’m in good enough health to be able to walk to most places.

    If I owned a car, I would have to pay the usual costs and worry about getting a parking space. Add on to that the frequent tickets that almost everyone in the city seems to get. A friend of mine says he budgets in at least two tickets a year because it’s gonna happen.

    However, occasionally I need the help of friends who own cars, and I’m grateful that they do.

  8. Lance says:

    Pierre Corneille,

    Certainly living in a large metropolitan area like Chicago would change the dynamic of auto ownership. I live in the suburban Indianapolis area (Carmel) and there is next to no public transportation available even in most of metropolitan Indianapolis.

    As I said, I’m a car guy, and I’d probably own a car even if I lived downtown Chicago, although I’d just drive it occasionally for pleasure trips.

    When I visit Chicago, which is fairly frequently since Indy isn’t too far away, I do enjoy using the CTA, especially the “L”. But I think if it was an everyday thing I would get pretty sick of waiting around for buses and trains that are often smelly and populated with a variety of people that are not always hygienically pleasing or particularly friendly (or occasionally too friendly).

    I guess I’m just not cut out for inner-city living except in small doses. Although I enjoy my trips to the windy city I always feel a sense of eased tension and relaxation when I clear “the loop” and see the plains of Indiana opening up as my car heads south through Hoosier farmland.

  9. James Hanley says:

    Heh, I’m in-between the two of you. I’m very much a small-town guy, and it’s hard to live in small towns without a car–for me the grocery store is farther than I want to carry groceries for 5 people, and there’s no reliable transit; and to get anywhere to really do interesting things means driving 45 minutes or more.

    On the other hand, I really don’t like driving at all, and the expense of a car has a high opportunity cost for me. And I don’t mind mass transit (yeah, on those days when the particularly smelly person is riding, or if you have to ride the particularly crowded bus/train, but not in general). When I lived in San Francisco I was content to get everywhere via bike or bus. If I lived in a big city I’d just rent a car whenever I wanted to go out of town.

    And surprisingly, I’m very comfortable in big cities, but only for short periods of time. I don’t feel any particular easing of tension when I leave Chicago after being there for 3 or 4 days, but after living in San Francisco long enough for the novelty to wear off, I had a constant awareness that I couldn’t stay there too much longer (getting a great view of the bay when I crested the top of a hill on my bike was usually good for another couple weeks though, especially if it came in close conjunction with eating at a good Thai restaurant or a long afternoon spent browsing used bookstores).

  10. Lance says:

    James Hanley,

    “On the other hand, I really don’t like driving at all…”

    I enjoy driving even after doing it everyday for thirty some years. I love the sound of a 32 valve, double overhead cam, V8 ripping through the gears as can be attested by the Carmel police who caught me recently going 75 mph in a 35 mph zone while test driving a 2011 Mustang GT. Totally worth the 200 dollar ticket. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

    I even love the mundane little Honda Civic I drive daily. It is so efficiently engineered and happy in its work, even if it is only a commuter car. Between my wife and I, we own three cars and two pick ups. Most are junky old beaters, but I love each of them in their own way.

    I love fixing them and cleaning them and just looking at them some times.

    Tomorrow a fellow car nut and I are attending the annual Mecum Auto Auction held here in Indianapolis. We aren’t going to be buying any cars. We are just going to drool over the 2,000 1960’s and 1970’s “muscle cars” and other sports and exotic machines that will be on display.

    My sister loves horses and I just don’t get it. They are just big, dumb, slow, smelly beasts to me. So I can understand that others may not share my love for the automobile.

  11. James Hanley says:

    Put me in a high powered car on the Indy Speedway and I’d have a ball, for a while at least. But city driving is just irritating, and highway driving quickly becomes dull.

    We are just going to drool over the 2,000 1960′s and 1970′s “muscle cars” and other sports and exotic machines that will be on display.

    That’s design, not driving. I love looking at classic cars and I’m glad other people are willing to spend their time and money on them so I can get the benefit of looking at them (like the time we saw a Shelby Cobra being towed down I69 in a glass enclosed trailer! Vanity is good for something after all.).

    One of my favorite museums is the IMS Hall of Fame Museum, and for my money the best-looking racecar ever is the Novi Roadster. When I went to the Indycar race at Michigan Speedway a few years back they had a bunch of old racecars running on the track before the race, including an Offy and Andy Granatelli’s turbine. Getting to hear that famous engine was a dream-come-true moment.

  12. Re: mass transit and Chicago

    I’m actually not too fond of the L. I like the convenience, but the noise and the (for me) sometimes claustrophic atmosphere–all the people and the enclosed space underground–is one reason why I prefer walking.

    Re: liking to drive

    I have a license, but I really don’t like driving. I’m afraid I’ll run over a pedestrian or a bicyclist. Not the kind of drive you’d want on the road.

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