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Major Station Closures Are Stranding Bus Passengers

by Staff

Intercity bus riders are being left out in the cold, quite literally, as Greyhound’s former owner sells the valuable stations that connect its vast network. CNN Business reports that bus depots have shuttered in major cities, including Houston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Tampa, Louisville, and Charlottesville, with Chicago and Dallas next in line. Often in prime downtown locations, the stations are transformed into restaurants and other ventures, and in some cases, Greyhound leases stations from the new owners. The Wall Street Journal breaks down what happened when the bus giant changed hands between British transportation company FirstGroup to German’s Flix in 2021. The $172 million sale was a loss for FirstGroup (which purchased Greyhound for $3.7 billion in 2007), but did not include Greyhound’s properties, which FirstGroup has been selling off separately.

So far FirstGroup has unloaded nearly 50 of them for more than $240 million. While bus travel has been on the decline since Greyhound started in 1914, it provides a much-needed service for lower-income Americans. Greyhound’s 2,300 stops run coast to coast, providing a more affordable way to get from here to there. Meanwhile, bus travel still beats train, with double the passengers of Amtrak. “All this happening at once is really startling,” DePaul University professor Joseph Schwieterman told CNN Business. “You’re taking mobility away from disproportionately low-income and mobility-challenged citizens who don’t have other options.”

Without terminals, travelers face a host of issues. Bus stations provide a place for people to use the bathroom and grab a bite to eat, but more importantly, to keep them out of snow or harsh weather. If a bus transfer occurs late at night, passengers must wait outside instead of the safety of an indoor terminal (around half of Greyhound passengers make transfers). And no one is there to inform them about delays or other changes. The trend of curbside pickup is not new, however. Companies began operating buses out of Chinatowns from the curb in the ’90s, loading lines of people as buses idled on congested roadways. Ticket prices plummeted using this model, free from the costs of terminals and additional staff, but there was still the headache of managing a busload of people on busy streets.

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“Losing out on terminals means that cities are going to have to regulate curbside service,” Nicholas Klein, an assistant professor at Cornell University who specializes in intercity bus travel. “Someone has to deal with the consequences of lots of people waiting for buses where there’s not sufficient services.” Following Greyhound’s bus station closure in Tampa, passengers now wait for their rides under a highway overpass. In Philadelphia, complaints moved curbside pickups from neighborhood to neighborhood, and in other cities, are forcing the stops out to more remote locations. Transit advocates hope the public sector will step up to save the service. In Georgia, federal dollars helped open a new terminal in Atlanta, and other solutions may lie in combining bus terminals with train stations, seen in cities like Boston and Milwaukee. (Bus 666 is no longer making stops to Hel.)

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