For fares that can be a tenth what Amtrak is charging (and of course Amtrak is exempt from taxes that private companies have to pay), private bus companies are doing a great job providing transportation up and down from NYC to Philadelphia to DC. So why have the government provide train service? It makes one wonder about the waste of the government stimulus on things such as high speed rail.
While the Obama administration has been desperately seeking to spend $53 billion on so-called high-speed rail lines, private businessmen have developed Chinatown and Megabus lines that provide inter-city service that has attracted legions of price-conscious travelers.
Chinatown bus service started in 1998 to provide a cheap way for Asian immigrants to get from New York to Boston. You lined up at the curb, paid your $20 fare to the driver and settled into a comfortable bus for four hours or so.
Now there's service to multiple destinations (including gambling casinos) from New York and on the West Coast, too. And competitors have arisen. Megabus routes exist between Maine and Memphis and Minneapolis, notably including many college towns.
The buses have bathrooms, AC power outlets and free wi-fi. They're not as fast as the much more expensive Acela train, but they tend to run on schedule.
Bus travel used to be decidedly downscale, with a clientele that scared off middle-class travelers. That's because, back in the days of heavily regulated transportation, bus lines followed the passenger railroad model, with stations in central cities, routes with multiple stops, fares propped up by monopolies and operators with no economic incentive to provide comfortable or pleasant service.
Chinatown and Megabus operators ditched this model for one that works for travelers for whom money is scarce and time plentiful. Who needs a station? Intercity buses can occupy curb space briefly just as city buses do. Who needs multiple stops? You can make money on people who want to go from one specific location to another. . . .
Labels: privatization, stimulus