As exponential increases in COVID-19 cases sees travel plans cancelled across the nation, bus companies are struggling to adapt to these changes.
NPR reports that the financial impact of the low demand for bus travel, on account of either lockdowns or safety concerns, could cause long-lasting damage to these companies. Since the start of the pandemic, demand for travel via bus has fallen by over 80 percent. Health officials have urged people to avoid using public transport when possible, encouraging everyone to take extra consideration into any travel plans.
With the decrease in services, there's less options and some higher prices to pay for bus travel, causing concern that there could be less affordable travel options for low income families. With less competition, companies have started to charge more for their services, as traveler Andrew Sarkis explained. He paid $97 for a one-way bus ticket that in past years cost him $45, for instance.
Greyhound has revealed that its revenues during the pandemic have fallen around 60 percent, and it's operating less than half of its normal bus routes. "Greyhound has been immensely impacted by the effects of COVID-19," said the company in a statement provided to NPR. "From temporary and permanent closures of routes to sudden workforce reductions, our ability to provide critical service to communities—especially those that are underserved and/or rural—has been reduced." President of the American Bus Association, Peter Pantuso, added that the industry is currently operating "at about 10 percent capacity."
Even with multiple COVID-19 vaccines getting approval, there's still no clear end in sight for the pandemic. Companies aren't clear on when they can expect demand to return to normal, or if it even will. Pantuso has noted that around 85 percent of people who work in the bus industry have either been furloughed or laid off.
Speciality bus services such as the Nitetrain Coach Company from Nashville, which offers luxury buses with bunk beds and bars for touring musicians, have been hit hard by the pandemic, too. "It's been a hard time with concerts not happening," said Nitetrain's Angela Eicher. Over 200 drivers have been out of work since the start of the pandemic. "We're at the mercy of the venues, when the venues allow the concerts to start happening, that's when our buses will start rolling again."
Transportation expert Joe Schwieterman said that Congress has yet to provide the support the industry needs, despite billions of dollars in financial aid being offered to airlines and Amtrak. "If more memebrs of Congress took the bus on a regular basis, we'd probably be at the top of the list for funding," said Schwieterman.
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