CHICAGO — Late summer vacations, college kids on the move and travelers headed to family events will result in hundreds of intercity buses being "sold out" over the Labor Day holiday, according to the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. Researchers forecast more than 1.14 million passengers will travel on intercity buses over a five-day period, an increase of 5 percent compared to this time last year.
"Bus lines have elbowed their way into busy short- and medium-distance markets in recent years, diverting a great deal of traffic from cars, trains and planes,” said Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute. "Many extra buses will be put into service, especially in major markets of the Midwest and Northeast."
The Chaddick Institute presents this data to offer comparisons with air and automobile travel during major holidays. Findings in the report show:
- Intercity bus travel is expected to be at its highest level for the Labor Day holiday in at least a decade. An estimated 1,144,094 passengers will make trips by bus between Thursday, Sept. 4 and Monday, Sept. 7. This trend reflects a continuing revival in the intercity bus industry.
- Booking are highest Friday, Sept. 4, which is shaping up to be one of the busiest travel days of the year. Strong travel is also expected on Labor Day, Sept. 7, and Greyhound, Megabus and other major lines are expected to operate many “extra section” buses on those days.
- Budget travelers are finding buses to be a particularly attractive option. A few weeks before the holiday, peak-hour departures were available between New York and Washington, D.C., for $37 each way, while Chicago-to-Detroit fares and Portland-to-Seattle one-way fares were $38 and $28, respectively.
- Daily bus operations are up. The number of daily scheduled operations by intercity conventional and discount city-to-city bus lines together grew by 2.1 percent during normal travel periods between 2014 and 2015.
"New GPS apps will allow bus travelers to arrive at pickup areas only moments before their bus is ready for boarding," said Marisa Schulz, associate director of the Chaddick Institute. This is the first summer when travelers on Greyhound, the largest provider of intercity bus transportation, can use BusTracker, a GPS tracking system that allows customers to see where their bus is, and when it will arrive at their destination. Another added convenience is the expansion of reserved seating on Megabus.com, which made an additional 10 seats — for a total of 20 per bus — available to reserve prior to departure on all routes.
The Chaddick Institute reached these estimates using its own Intercity Bus Data Set and bookings data from Wanderu.com, a company that aggregates bus ticket sales online. The full report and methodology are available at http://bit.ly/chaddickresearch.
Kristin Claes Mathews