The new Greyhound Bus Terminal in Atlanta from June 2023. - Photo: Joseph Schwieterman

The new Greyhound Bus Terminal in Atlanta from June 2023.

Photo: Joseph Schwieterman

Recent moves by FlixBus, Indian Trails Bus Lines, and Megabus are heightening competition in a rapidly recovering intercity bus industry. Many routes that had only a single provider a year ago now have two; others that had two have three, expanding customer choice.

By gradually overcoming equipment and driver shortages that put a drag on the recovery last year, bus lines have seen traffic rebound nationwide to perhaps 80% to 85% of pre-pandemic levels. This makes the bounce back more like that of airlines and Amtrak than for public transit operators, which have largely seen traffic plateau well below pre-pandemic levels.

The recovery has been much slower in the Northeast on account of the industry’s heavier reliance on commuter and business travel in that region than elsewhere. Traffic there continues to suffer from work-from-home lifestyles and public-safety concerns in large cities. Still, this region is experiencing a summer rebound that is imbuing optimism.  

Much of the expanded customer choice stems from FlixBus’s robust expansion, which has continued despite its late-2021 acquisition of Greyhound Lines, a move that took many observers by surprise.

FlixBus has built a national network since its U.S. launch in 2019. A bevy of small lines, meanwhile, is testing the waters with new offerings, and some lines have migrated ticket sales to the booking platform. Megabus has built strong brand awareness in the 17 years since its familiar double-deckers began operating in the U.S. in 2006

A Greyhound bus at Springfield, Ind., in early 2022. - Photo: Joseph Schwieterman

A Greyhound bus at Springfield, Ind., in early 2022.

Photo: Joseph Schwieterman

The Battle for Michigan

The stiffened competition is exemplified by major service rollouts in Michigan, heralded by Indian Trails’ re-entry into the Chicago – Detroit market, with three trips in each direction daily. Previously, only Greyhound and FlixBus offered direct coach-travel options on the route. The new Indian Trails route, sold on, is the cornerstone of a new connecting service linking Chicago and Toronto that is provided in partnership with Adirondack Trailways, which is new to Michigan, having launched between Detroit from the Canadian metropolis earlier this year.  

FlixBus, for its part, added a new route linking Chicago to East Lansing, Mich., via Grand Rapids, which allows for direct bus trips between East Lansing’s Michigan State University and Chicago for the first time since Megabus’s withdrawal years ago. FlixBus schedules are largely the opposite of Amtrak’s Blue Water service, giving students on westbound trips an afternoon departure option.

In addition, bus travelers in Detroit heading to Dayton and Cincinnati, along the busy I-75 corridors are longer left with only Greyhound. FlixBus’s recent launch, part of a new service linking East Lansing and Louisville, ends its longstanding absence from Ohio River Valley. Flixbus has also launched between Chicago and Louisville, which, too, had no other direct ground travel options other than Greyhound, having seen its Amtrak train service disappear more than 20 years ago.

The emphasis on new service to the Wolverine State is abetted by the State of Michigan’s favorable transportation stance toward intercity buses. The state has long pushed to make intercity bus travel a prominent part of the transport landscape through financial support that has brought intercity coaches to many of the same station facilities as Amtrak, which is rare in many other states. The state also supports an extensive rural network, largely operated by Indian Trails and designed to connect with Amtrak trains. In addition, plans are afoot for a new intermodal transportation terminal in Detroit.

Passengers at the Indianapolis Bus Station board a Greyhound for St. Louis in July 2023. - Photo: Joseph Schwieterman

Passengers at the Indianapolis Bus Station board a Greyhound for St. Louis in July 2023.

Photo: Joseph Schwieterman

Strategic Shifts in the Southwest

The Southwest is also witnessing the emergence of many new services. The Los Angeles – San Francisco route, long dominated by Greyhound/FlixBus, has seen a return of Megabus. The latter’s single-decker coaches, after being absent for years, are also back running from L.A. to both Las Vegas and Sacramento, Calif., making Megabus’s return to the region a headline-grabber.

Simultaneous expansion by FlixBus, however, assures that this bus-travel juggernaut, which boasts a large network of overlapping local and express services throughout the West, remains dominant. In June, FlixBus added a new route linking Palm Springs, Calif., to Las Vegas.

Megabus’s presence in Nevada is nonetheless growing, made evident by the recent addition of Salt Lake Express (SLE) — a powerhouse on the Las Vegas – Utah route — to its booking platform. Indicative of the growing desire of bus lines to experiment with outlets to promote their offerings, SLE is now sold on,, and, a combo that would have been almost unthinkable before the pandemic, when carriers appeared on, at most, one of these major platforms.  

Burlington Trailways, a Midwest-oriented carrier, uses the same strategy. These additions give a route map that stretches almost from coast to coast, save for the mountainous gap between Denver and Salt Lake City. At the same time, more carriers are also popping up on “booking aggregator sites,” such as and, to make niche offerings easier for online shoppers to find.

Unlike the Greyhound and FlixBus sites, however, doesn't offer a large number of schedule options involving transfers between buses. Multiple bus trips generally entail buying separate tickets for each leg. Whether more “through tickets” that involve transfers become available on Megabus remains to be seen. Regardless, the platform is enjoying a rebound.

A FlixBus at Dupont Circle stop in Washington, DC. - Photo: Joseph Schwieterman

A FlixBus at Dupont Circle stop in Washington, DC.

Photo: Joseph Schwieterman

FlixBus/Greyhound Integration Accelerates

Perhaps the biggest story in 2023’s intercity bus travel landscape has been the integration of FlixBus and Greyhound schedules. Connections between FlixBus and Greyhound are now pervasive on their respective booking sites, with the name of the brand associated with each leg of a trip clearly shown to ticket buyers.

The two brands now use the same stations or stop in most major cities they jointly service, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington. The integration comes on the heels of the February rollout of a website that included the introduction of reserved seats and new baggage rules on Greyhound.

The integration, together with new interline agreements with most long-established Greyhound partners, including those part of the Trailways system, gives a major boost to the interline bus network. This creates a much broader set of interconnected services involving travel on several bus lines on a single ticket than was previously available. Due to the enhanced connections, quicker journeys are now available between many cities. The beneficiaries include many immigrants traveling on regularly scheduled buses from U.S/Mexico border region to points throughout the country using the newly integrated FlixBus/Greyhound system. After seeing schedule options gradually diminish over the past decade, the resulting synergy has created a sense of momentum in the sector.

Less favorable to the network is the problem posed by the closing of the privately run Greyhound stations over the past two years, which is buffeting the industry.

The first phase of station closing included Cincinnati; Knoxville, Tenn.; Los Angeles; and North Little Rock, Ark. More recently, stations in Louisville, Philadelphia, and Tampa closed.

Now, there are concerns that Chicago; Cleveland; Houston; Kansas City; Orlando; and Richmond, Va., could be next. When stations are shuttered, bus lines often relocate to curbside spots, parking lots, or modular stations.  

Some now-defunct privately-owned stations were owned by Twenty Lakes Holdings, a real estate holding company that acquired them from FirstGroup, the former owner of Greyhound. TLH hired another firm to position the properties for sale. In numerous locations, such as Knoxville, Philadelphia, and Tampa, the closings generated negative press coverage and stories of passenger inconvenience, typically due to the loss of traditional waiting rooms and other amenities.

Fortunately, prior to the above transactions taking place, 15 of the 25 largest metro areas had already taken action (see our analysis here) to allow intercity bus services to use publicly owned facilities, such as transit hubs, railroad stations, and other suitable locations. This follows a pattern common in Europe and other parts of the world, where public facilities are widely available for bus lines.

In Los Angeles, Greyhound has moved to a facility at Los Angeles Union Station that is in many ways more attractive than the location of the Greyhound station that closed.

Even so, concerns persist that Greyhound and partner lines could be suddenly evicted from more critical stations in the next year. The potentially dire effects of the loss of the Chicago Greyhound Terminal, a major connecting hub, is the source of particular concern. The prospect of hundreds of passengers waiting outside for connections at a curb would be a major burden for disadvantaged groups that rely on bus travel.

The solution will require government agencies that have traditionally turned a blind eye to intercity buses to make adequate station facilities part of their policy agenda. They can learn from state transportation departments in Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina.

In Atlanta, an impressive new Greyhound station with a spacious waiting room, LCD arrival and departure boards, and seats with power outlets and charging ports akin to those airports opened this spring. Yet, not all government agencies are on board, which could make the next couple of years difficult.

Despite the problem of station closings and the advanced age of many motorcoaches, which is hurting the image of the industry, the past few months have made clear that intercity buses are regaining their “mojo.”  Even regions that saw little new service rollouts in 2022, such as California and the Midwest, are no longer “sleepy” when it comes to schedule offerings. This mode is critical to lower-income travelers, college students, and urban households without cars is picking up speed, expanding customer choice.

About the Author: Joseph Schwieterman, Ph.D., is director of the Chaddick Institute at DePaul University and the editor of Chaddick’s bi-monthly Intercity Bus E-News. His reports on intercity bus travel can be found here. To join the E-News listserv, email him at