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)
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