Intercity Buses Could Lead To Tourism Boost

A study from the Texas Transportation Institute says as airports and highways grow more crowded, the state needs to find more efficient ways of moving people between cities and across regions. One solution could be express intercity buses that operate similar to passenger trains.

 

Intercity bus services like Megabus, Bolt Bus, and Greyhound Express don't operate out of traditional bus stations. The discount services pick up and drop off passengers at roadside locations like parking lots. You can book tickets online for as little as one dollar. Once onboard, passengers can plug their laptops into power outlets and use Wi-Fi.

A study by De Paul University shows that intercity bus service is the fastest-growing mode of travel. And it's starting to catch on here in Texas.

"Well we've opened up our Texas hubs this summer in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio."

That's Mike Alvich with Coach USA. That's the company that operates Megabus, which just celebrated its 20-millionth customer since launching in 2006. 

Coach USA recently acquired the 83-year-old Kerrville Bus Company, and turned that into a Megabus route between Houston and Austin. 

Alvich says with high gas prices, the low fares on Megabus encourage more people to travel.

"We bring a lot of income into the cities and a lot of visitors, tourists and leisure travelers. People that want to do spontaneous-type trips come into the city and spend money."

Houston city officials hope that's what happens here. Lindsey Brown with the Greater Houston Visitors and Convention Bureau says the more ways people have to travel to the city, the better.

"Now people can come by bus; they can come by train; they can come by plane. The more options and the more affordable options we have is an absolute benefit to get more people into the city which is our overall goal."

The Texas Transportation Institute study says more passenger trains could help get a lot of traffic off the state's congested freeways, but express intercity buses could serve the same function in areas where new rail service isn't an option.