With No COVID-19 Relief in Sight, the Private Bus Industry Could Collapse — Taking with It a Vital US Transport Network
By Tim Levin
November 24, 2020
But as airlines, public transit agencies, and Amtrak all scored billions in emergency federal aid through the CARES Act stimulus package in March, the roughly 3,000 operators that make up the nation's private motorcoach industry were left without a paddle in a riptide that threatens their very existence.
"These are small family businesses, many of them multigenerational," said Peter Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association, a trade group that represents around 1,000 US and Canadian bus companies. "They've put their life's work into running what was a successful company and, really through no fault of their own, their world turned upside down."
Eight months later, with passenger demand at a fraction of normal levels and a return to normalcy still months or years away, the bus industry faces an existential crisis. The way things are going, Pantuso said up to 50% of bus companies could close up shop permanently by 2021.
That could lead to 30% to 40% of the national bus network vanishing, taking with it 78% of jobs in the charter-bus sector along with 65% of jobs in the shuttle-bus, commuter, and intercity-bus segments, according to third-party research commissioned by the ABA.
To stave off that calamity, the bus industry is pleading for a lifeline from the federal government. Without some much-needed aid, experts and industry leaders say, this vital part of the nation's transportation infrastructure risks permanent damage.