Streams

As Gas Prices Rise So Does Bus Ridership

Monday, May 02, 2011 - 11:42 AM

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Ahead of the busy summer travel season, inter-city bus ridership continues to climb despite the trio of recent crashes in the Northeast.

Robert Schwarz, Executive Vice President of Peter Phe said, “it's definitely increasing and we’re very optimistic for where it’s going to go this summer.” He added of rising gas prices, “it’s very good for the intercity bus industry” because travel is a discretionary item and habits can change with relative costs.

With gas over $4 a gallon, filling up the tank to go to Washington, D.C. can cost $60. You can get three bus tickets for that.

MegaBus has been expanding fast in the past few years, so it's hard to tell how gas prices might affect growth. Dale Moser, COO of MegaBus, said, that comparing ridership to this time last year on the same routes, the growth is "significantly greater" than projected, adding some of that "has to be somewhat related to gas." He cautioned, they do not ask riders to give the reason they choose the bus over driving when the buy a ticket.

Maureen Richmond of Bolt Bus had a slightly different report. For over a year, her company has been operating at above 95 percent capacity on weekends. So growth in ridership is difficult to identify, she says. But for weekday service, there's been a "slight uptick in passenger travel" in recent months. Bolt Bus is jointly owned by Greyhound and Peter Pan.

Overall, buses, particularly curbside pickup buses, are the fastest growing mode of intercity transportation. Professor Joseph Schwieterman of DePaul University studies the industry. He says, "the evidence suggests that ridership is up at least 33 percent now versus a year ago with all the new service as well as heightened fuel prices, but exact numbers are elusive." Pittsburgh recently added a bus hub that he says also contributed to new ridership numbers overall.

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