For more than a century, the motorcoach industry has been moving people and goods around the country. Buses help people get to their jobs, go on vacations and see their world at ground level. With 600 million passenger trips taken each year, the industry enables people to get from point A to point B and back economically and in an environmentally friendly way.
The future will offer new developments to make bus travel even better.
New customers through crowdsourcing
From scheduled service routes to chartered trips, the way people are booking trips is changing. Online reservations are the norm. Uber-like companies such as Rally and Skedaddle started offering services to high-volume events like festivals and political rallies. That led to other companies adding intercity services.
These technology-based companies use app-based curbside ticketing and other data to create schedules, but hire charter companies to run the buses.
“These companies are offering very flexible schedules in response to sophisticated demand analysis. They don’t own equipment. They just schedule the equipment and deploy where it is wanted most. They can be very nimble,” says Joseph Schwieterman, the director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development and author of an annual report on intercity bus trends.
Traditional companies like Greyhound, Megabus, Trailways and others have some similar analysis but serve a much larger traditional market.
Another trend we are seeing in the industry is e-ticketing. More companies are phasing out paper tickets, and more travelers are using their smartphones to book trips and board buses. Customers are enjoying the ease of booking a trip and boarding all in one place. Some companies, especially tour companies with hop-on-hop-off buses are moving toward the Disney “fast pass” model by providing bracelets to customers so they don’t have to worry about losing their day pass — they just swipe their wrist when they board.
The industry may be on the road to autonomous buses. They can be seen on small, strict routes such as shuttles on Google and Amazon campuses. In September 2018, Pacific Western Transportation began testing autonomous shuttles for visitors to the Calgary Zoo and the Telus Spark Science Center — a half-mile trek. Six months earlier, the city of San Ramon began California’s first autonomous bus service with the EasyMile Shuttle. The next step will be full-sized buses on autonomous routes. We’re seeing progress in Tokyo, where Hino Motors and SoftBank are teaming up for a pilot program that would allow minibuses to move people around Haneda Airport.
Upgrading the environment
As cities and states worry more about climate change and congestion pollution, we are seeing more demand for zero-emissions electric buses. Many of these buses can be seen in large metropolitan areas, but as the range of bus batteries increases, we’ll see more electric buses zipping between cities in the not-too-distant future.
The industry is changing and evolving to meet the needs of its younger, more technologically sophisticated customer base. Because of this, you’ll see many innovations in the coming decades that will help reshape your next bus ride