With favorable demographics, new innovations and customized packages, the motorcoach industry can significantly increase ridership, reported the American Bus Association (ABA).
In its State of the Industry report, the ABA said there will be some incremental growth in 2003 as people begin to increase travel frequency. While the number of trips may increase, many travelers reported a desire to stay closer to home.
Favorable demographics also point toward increased ridership. This decade will mark the biggest influx of 21-year-olds into the population as baby boomer’s children turn 21. The U.S. Census also indicates that the Hispanic population is growing and will rely heavily on public transportation. Finally, the nation’s aging population means more seniors with the time for discretionary travel.
One of the keys of tapping into those markets is providing new innovations and flexibility. Such things as newspapers and coffee for daily commuters, computer hook-ups and live television connections may help the industry compete with amenities offered by other transportation modes.
Another way to ensure riders is by operating ADA-equipped coaches. October 2002 marked the start of ADA deadlines for over-the-road buses that require all motorcoach operators to fulfill the request for a wheelchair accessible coach on 48-hour notice. Any new buses purchased by large or small fixed-route operators must also be accessible if more than 25% of the company’s fleet is involved in fixed-route service.
The ABA is working with Congress to expand the grant program to help operators cover the cost of compliance. It is estimated that the annual cost of compliance for the industry will exceed $40 million, and the annual funding provided to the industry only amounts to about $6 million, 15% of the actual cost.
For the full State of the Industry report, go to the ABA’s Website at www.buses.org.