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Young Millennials and Reborn Downtowns Bring Buses Back

Whet Moser looks at the revival of the intercity bus industry, despite its past inadequacies and stigmas. He discusses a new report that details the elements contributing to today's bus boom.
January 10, 2013, 6am PST | Erica Gutiérrez
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In this article, Moser first reminisces about his own past experiences, often negative, with intercity bus travel, before pointing to some surprising new findings regarding the turnaround in the industry. He presents the findings from a new report ‘The Motor Coach Metamorphosis" [PDF] published by DePaul’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, that charts the decline and growth of intercity bus services. According to the report, "[i]ntercity bus service grew by 7.5% between the end of 2011 and 2012 -- the highest rate of growth in four years," outpacing growth in rail, airline and automobile intercity travel modes.

Moser cites two important phenomena contributing to this trend: 1) the opening of new bus services starting in 2006, including MegaBus and BoltBus, offering cheap fares and technological perks such as WiFi, which added much-needed competition to the otherwise stagnant bus industry; and 2) the revival of central-business districts throughout America's cities, which appeal to young travelers looking to avoid the hassle of travel to and from airports. The report also talks about how the incorporation of new technologies, streamlined location of new bus stops, and federal crackdowns on unsafe "Chinatown" buses are all contributing to growth in this industry.

Moser notes that nearly 50% of intercity bus users are within the ages of 18 and 25, that 5 out of six are traveling for fun or personal reasons, and that the majority are women. Finally, he speculates that another possible contributing factor to this trend is the abundance of time that many younger travelers may have prior to entering the workforce, before the "money-for-vacation-days trade" makes long bus journeys less attractive.

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Published on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 in Chicago Magazine
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