In a recent Bloomberg article, "Amtrak May Put Passengers on Buses in Fight Over Safety Upgrade", Congressional and local officials insinuated that utilizing buses would hurt the communities and local economies affected by Amtrak's alternative to using potentially unsafe railroads. In response to the article, ABA President & CEO Peter Pantuso sent the following response to Bloomberg addressing the concerns of those officials.
It was with great interest the motorcoach community read the Bloomberg article “Amtrak May Put Passengers on Buses in Fight Over Safety Upgrade.” As the president and CEO of the American Bus Association, I’m delighted to see Amtrak considering such a prudent choice in the face of challenging situation. However, what most surprised me about the article was the resistance to Amtrak’s idea from members of Congress and other public officials, in particular the statements suggesting bus travel is a less safe form of transportation, and Amtrak’s proposal as a “threat.”
Travel by motorcoach is one of the safest forms of transportation available, for everyone and in any community - a review of current highway statistics will bear this out. In fact, Amtrak currently uses motorcoach service daily at several locations around the country, in addition to routine use as replacement service and/or extension service for locations Amtrak is unable to reach, all without a fatality. Despite operating in a diverse and complex environment, motorcoaches convey more than 20 times the number of annual passengers than Amtrak, with far fewer fatal incidents. Alternatively, Amtrak and collectively the entire railroad community have had a number of safety incidents in recent times, which has led to the Positive Train Control mandate.
Further, motorcoaches provide necessary flexibility to meet the dynamic transportation needs of today’s traveling public. Unlike Amtrak, which requires permanent fixed routes, motorcoaches can modify their routes to accommodate commuter travel providing safe, reliable and convenient service. Buses literally pick people up outside their front door and often provide the solution to that “last mile” commuter challenge. Also, today’s motorcoaches come with amenities rivaling other modes of travel, with free wi-fi, plug-ins, comfortable seating with plenty of leg room and more. Motorcoach travel is also one the most environmentally friendly modes of transportation, just consider that one bus can take up to 50 cars off the road.
It’s disheartening to see public representatives such as Sen. Udall of Colorado, Sen. Moran of Kansas, Sen. Leahy of Vermont and Dodge City Mayor Smoll make such disparaging and unsubstantiated comments regarding how buses would disrupt services for passengers, increase barriers to travel and hobble local economies. In fact, it is motorcoach service that has kept communities connected and economies growing, in a safe and efficient manner, for decades. The motorcoach industry moves almost 20 times the number of people Amtrak moves, with more than 600 million passenger trips annually.
Given the alternative of riding on unprotected rails and putting passenger safety at risk, as a citizen I would like to believe these legislative and community leaders would applaud Amtrak’s effort to find a safe, convenient and economical solution. I would welcome the opportunity to take Senator Udall and others on a motorcoach trip any time and demonstrate the safety and convenience of today’s motorcoach transportation option – after all, 600 million passengers can’t be wrong!