Skip to main content Accesibility Help

RESEARCH ARTICLE: The Decline and Recovery of Intercity Bus Service in the United States: A Comeback for an Environmentally Friendly Transportation Mode?

  • Lauren A. Fischer (a1) and Joseph P. Schwieterman (a2)

The intercity bus sector in the United States (US) has experienced a dramatic recovery in recent years due to the expansion of new curbside operators—express operators linking major cities that do not use traditional stations. Curbside operators such as BoltBus, DC2NY Bus, and Megabus are infusing new life into this once-struggling sector, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast. This study explores two aspects of the changing role of the intercity bus. First, it evaluates the extent to which intercity bus service diminished after 1960 and its subsequent recovery starting in 2006. Drawing on newly collected data from 11,400 arrivals and departures from a representative sample of US cities between 1960 and 2010, it shows that US cities lost more than three quarters of their intercity bus services before the recovery began. Secondly, it shows how recent growth of curbside-bus operators is reducing fuel consumption by about 11 million gallons annually and reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 242 million pounds. This is the equivalent benefit of removing 23,114 vehicles from the road or having 66,041 people convert from conventional to hybrid cars. These findings suggest that the sector's recovery has significant and perhaps underappreciated environmental benefits. It also suggests that further expansion by the sector, nurtured by public policy, could be an effective strategy to promote more energy-efficient intercity travel.

Environmental Practice 13:1–9 (2011)

Corresponding author
Lauren A. Fischer, Associate Director, Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, DePaul University, Chicago, IL 60604; (phone) 312-362-5731; (fax) 312-962-1994; (e-mail)
Hide All
Coach USA. 2009, November 9. Travelers Turn to Intercity Bus Service to Save Money. Megabus, Chicago. Available at, (accessed October 1, 2010).
De Velde, D. 2010. Long-Distance Bus Services in Europe: Concessions or Free Market. OECD Transport, no. 3, 241–263. Discussion Paper available at (accessed September 15, 2010).
Federal Transit Administration. 2002, June. TCP Report 79: Effective Approaches to Meeting Rural Intercity Bus Transportation Needs. Transit Research Cooperative Program, Washington, DC, 184 pp. Available at (accessed October 1, 2010).
Greyhound Hits the Road with New Look. Los Angeles Times Online, November 18, 2007.
Jackson, C. 1984. Hounds of the Road: A History of the Greyhound Bus Company. Bowling Green University Popular Press, Bowling Green, OH, 214 pp.
Klein, N. 2009. Emergent Curbside Intercity Bus Industry: Chinatown and Beyond. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, no. 2111, 8389.
M.J. Bradley & Associates. 2007, May. Comparison of Energy Use & CO2 Emissions from Different Transportation Modes. American Bus Association, Washington, DC, 14 pp. Available at (accessed October 1, 2010).
Mogelonsky, M. 1998. Busing It. American Demographics 20(5):4243.
Schwieterman, J., and Fischer, L.. 2007, December 24. The Return of the Intercity Bus: The Decline and Recovery of Scheduled Service to American Cities, 1960–2007. School of Public Service, DePaul University, Chicago, 15 pp. Available at (accessed October 1, 2010).
Schwieterman, J., and Fischer, L.. 2008, January. 2008 Update on the Growth of Intercity Bus Service. Chaddick Institute, DePaul University, Chicago. Available at (accessed September 15, 2010).
Schwieterman, J., and Fischer, L.. 2010, January. Variations in the Rates of Passenger Usage of Portable Technology on Intercity Buses, Trains, and Planes: Implications for Transportation Planning. Paper presented at the 2010 Transportation Research Forum, Arlington, VA. Abstract at (accessed October 1, 2010).
Towles, C. 2007, November 20. A Historical Examination of Intercity Bus Service in Eight Midwestern Cities. Seminar paper. School of Public Service, DePaul University, Chicago, 24 pp.
US Department of Transportation (USDOT), Bureau of Transportation Statistics. 2007. National Transportation Statistics. USDOT, Washington, DC. Available at (accessed October 1, 2010).
US General Accounting Office (USGAO). 1992, June. Surface Transportation: The Availability of Intercity Bus Service Continues to Decline. GAO/RECD-92-126. USGAO, Washington, DC, 51 pp. Available at (accessed September 17, 2010).
Walsh, M. 2000. Making Connections: The Long-Distance Bus Industry in the USA. Ashgate, Aldershot, UK, 245 pp.
Wrenick, F. 2007. The Streamline Era Greyhound Terminals: The Architecture of W.S. Arrasmith. McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 204 pp.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environmental Practice
  • ISSN: 1466-0466
  • EISSN: 1466-0474
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-practice
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed