1/19/2014 | 1 MINUTE READ

Cheapest Intercity Travel? Take the Big Bus

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Discount bus services between major U.S. cities cost travelers less than driving a car or taking a train or plane, says DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

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Discount bus services between major U.S. cities cost travelers less than driving a car or taking a train or plane, says DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

An analysis by the Chicago-based institute says bus riders pay an average 38% less on such intercity trips of 80-500 miles. Such fares are about half that of rail and one-fifth as much as air travel.

The study, Motoring into the Mainstream: 2013 Year-in-Review: Intercity Bus Service in the United States, was released in mid-January during the American Bus Assn. convention in Nashville, Tenn. The 17-page summary can be viewed in PDF format HERE.

The analysis of travel costs between 50 U.S. cities concludes that bus travelers pay an average $36 for a one-way trip compared with $49 by car, $64 by rail and $145 by plane.

Operations by intercity bus services have nearly doubled to more than 1,000 since 2010, according to the institute. It notes that Greyhound still has twice as many daily departures (1,100) as the next-largest provider, Megabus (600).

The report points out that a new online service, wanderu.com, helps travelers search and book bus and train trips. The first-of-its-kind service currently covers the East Coast of North America from Montreal to Miami and as far west as Ohio. The site offers schedules, fares, a trip finder and descriptions and maps for more than 200 transit stations and stops in the region.

Motor coach operators, who have experienced "extraordinary" growth over the past five years, can expect more of the same in 2014. The report points to the increasing appeal of bus travel by consumers who are reconsidering the advantages of that mode.

Luxury operators that offer spacious seating an on-board food service appear poised to challenge markets where discount service is pervasive, the study concludes.