Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

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Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby Station Aficionado » Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:21 pm

Does anyone know what the criteria are (if any exist) for establishing or maintaining a Thruway bus connection to an Amtrak train (or route)? I’m curious because I can’t decipher any from the connections that currently exist.

Take Virginia as an example. There are currently three Thruway services. One is the Norfolk connection for the Northeast regional trains that originate or terminate at Newport News. The second is the tri-weekly bus from Richmond to Charlottesville to connect with the Cardinal. And the last is a Greyhound between Washington and Charlottesville which, I guess, provides a connection to and from the NEC.

The Norfolk bus is easy to understand, and would seem quite useful. The Richmond-Charlottesville bus (a vestigial remnant, I suppose, of C&O’s practice of running their trains with both Washington and Newport News sections) is about as useful as the train to which it connects (i.e., not very useful, in my opinion). As for the Washington-Charlottesville ‘Hound, I think there used be a couple of other frequencies, and they went via Dulles airport. Dulles has been dropped, and there’s only one frequency now in the Amtrak timetable. I guess it does provide some additional NEC options for Charlottesville, but with the new Lynchburg train, the bus would appear to be of declining utility (and I suspect that’s another market from which Greyhound is retrenching).

I think there are some other opportunities where Thruways could be a significant part of Amtrak service in Virginia. First, instead of (or in addition) to the bus connecting with the Cardinal, there should be a Richmond-Charlottesville bus to connect with the Crescent. That would make for a relatively easy Richmond-Atlanta trip. (I suppose one could take the Carolinian from Richmond to Charlotte and transfer to the Crescent there, but that involves a 5-6 hour layover at bad hours in both directions). Second, Roanoke-Lynchburg buses connecting with the Crescent and the new Lynchburg train seem like a no-brainer, given the relatively short distance involved. I think there used be a Roanoke-Clifton Forge bus to connect with the Cardinal, but Lynchburg buses would create two connections for Roanoke-Washington and Roanoke-New York trips. Finally, I have never understood why there are not buses from Tidewater to Rocky Mount to connect with the Carolinian and the Florida trains. Indeed, I believe SCL ran connecting trains on that route. The Tidewater area is a big market, and I would think there would be fair number of people there who would take a bus/train combination to reach Charlotte or Florida.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but Thruways would seem to be an easy and relatively cheap way to reach additional markets and boost the performance of several Amtrak trains. I don’t understand why Amtrak doesn’t make greater use of them. Perhaps some of you can enlighten me.
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:29 pm

I'd dare say the main criteria is find an operator that has the expectation of making a $$$ from the service.

Some routes are subsidized, but In all likelihood to establish additional ones, they would have to be self sustaining.

Even though you would ever catch me riding it (I'd take #3 to SNB; rent an auto from there) , the 8003-8004 Kingman-Las Vegas "van" reportedly makes a $$$ for the independent operator. This is likely because only one vehicle and driver is needed to service two trains and the space sold is all reserved.
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby David Benton » Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:37 am

I believe thruway services are the way to expand amtraks ridership rapidly . And to reach a far bigger proportion of the population .
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby delvyrails » Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:15 pm

Given that the cost of running a Thruway bus is only a small fraction of the cost of running a train over the same distance, the bus could be used both to feed traffic to and from the trains and as a market tester to guage the potential for a new or revised train route.

The total current Amtrak route mileage of about 21,000 would seem to justify a Thruway feeder total mileage several times as large. A cursory look at the Amatrak route map sugggests that the bus mileage today is only about one-quarter of the train mileage; and it is rather unequally distributed around the country.

The various relationships between the intercity train and bus are among the least discussed but most important of Amtrak issues. Together, they could make possible a comprehensive ground travel system.
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby Station Aficionado » Tue Nov 24, 2009 10:27 pm

Well, here's a small step in the right direction:

http://m.hudsonstarobserver.com/article.cfm?id=36606&tag=Wisconsin

I had not seen this earlier.
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby jamesinclair » Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:35 pm

Can someone explain the law in California that requires those taking an amtrak bus to take a train as well?

For example, there's a bus that runs from LA to Fresno (and possibly beyond) in between scheduled San Joaquin moves. (Most trips have a bus from LA to bakersfield to connect onto the train) However, someone who wants to go only from LA to Fresno can NOT book that bus unless they book a train trip somewhere else!
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby mkellerm » Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:56 pm

The background of the California policy is pretty simple. Private bus operators complained to the state legislature that state-subsidized Amtrak Thruway buses represented unfair competition to their unsubsidized routes, so the state legislature added a provision requiring that travel on a Thruway bus be part of an itinerary involving rail travel. The rail travel requirement has been interpreted rather loosely, however; bus travel can form one leg of a round-trip itinerary so long as there is some rail travel on the other leg. In recent years, with the retrenchment of the commerical intercity bus industry in California, the law has been changed slightly to allow service to communities without commerical intercity bus service without requiring rail travel. For example, the new national timetable advertises travel between Lebec and Newhall, CA without a connecting rail ticket (p88).
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby ne plus ultra » Thu Nov 26, 2009 2:12 am

Station Aficionado wrote:Well, here's a small step in the right direction:

http://m.hudsonstarobserver.com/article.cfm?id=36606&tag=Wisconsin

I had not seen this earlier.

Small steps. Another small step would be if that bus company hired someone smarter to run their website:
http://www.jeffersonlines.com/schedule.asp?state=WI

I don't understand a transit company whose website tells you the cities they serve, but doesn't tell you the routes their buses follow. Can you just call and say "I'd like to travel from Hudson to Coon Valley", and they send a bus out to get you and take you there?

Randomly seeking a couple trips to try to figure things out, I discovered that I could travel from Abbotsford, Wisconsin to St. Joe, MO in 18 hours; or to Cameron, MO, which is 34 miles away, in 12 hours. I guess if people are willing to play with the site for half an hour, they may find ways to get where they want to go, but wouldn't you want to offer a route map? Just to give people some ideas?

Jefferson is actually pretty extensive. Which makes this feat all the more impressive -- they managed to make me long for the efficiency and good sense of a centralized, public sector transportation company. :wink:
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby ne plus ultra » Thu Nov 26, 2009 2:19 am

delvyrails wrote:The various relationships between the intercity train and bus are among the least discussed but most important of Amtrak issues. Together, they could make possible a comprehensive ground travel system.

I'm surprised no one has ever put together a good bus-train website aggregating Amtrak and various ground carriers. I don't even know of a good map of bus service. Many bus companies show their own service, but perhaps understandably their maps show no one else's. But the limitations of this are that there is no bus company with a national system, and their combined maps would offer a lot more connections.

I can understand that 10 years ago, it would have been prohibitively expensive. But today, I'd think somebody like Orbitz would establish a second, low-budget brand and pull such a thing together. The Orbitz Ultra Cheap Hub - with a slogan of "If you can't afford anything more than a bus ...O.U.C.H." :wink:
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby jtbell » Thu Nov 26, 2009 12:20 pm

ne plus ultra wrote:I don't understand a transit company whose website tells you the cities they serve, but doesn't tell you the routes their buses follow.


I think it's because web site designers and the general public nowadays are more familiar with airline-style point to point service than with bus/rail-style linear route service. Last time I looked at Greyhound's web site, I couldn't find any route maps or traditional timetables either, just "find an itinerary from point A to point B."
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby matthewsaggie » Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:17 pm

The Greyhound site is oriented to a point to point layout, like the airlines and Amtrak, but when you pull up the possible times between two points, there is a schedule number/link. That's a link to the actual timetable for the run, showing all the stops and times.
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby John_Perkowski » Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:17 pm

jamesinclair wrote:Can someone explain the law in California that requires those taking an amtrak bus to take a train as well?

For example, there's a bus that runs from LA to Fresno (and possibly beyond) in between scheduled San Joaquin moves. (Most trips have a bus from LA to bakersfield to connect onto the train) However, someone who wants to go only from LA to Fresno can NOT book that bus unless they book a train trip somewhere else!


It probably dates back to when UP, SP, and ATSF had bus lines in LA and (ATSF/SP) the Bay Area. I suspect local companies wanted protection, to include SP and the Pacific Electric.
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:34 am

Really old topic, but ExCon90 reminded me about this in the Acela Replacement thread:
ExCon90 wrote:But the Thruway buses mostly run where there is no rail alternative and function as feeders. In fact I think it's a requirement that all passengers on those buses must make part of the journey by Amtrak train, so the same type of passenger mix is present.

I know that every once in a while Amtrak adds service on a Thruway route (Norfolk, Downeaster) but by and large it looks like Amtrak is saying, "tough luck, no train for you." Does anyone know the particularly high-volume Thruway routes? EDIT: the San Joaquins are limited by Tehachapi Pass and have connected via bus Bakersfield-Los Angeles for as long as they have existed - I'm not so much counting those.

Also, are there Thruway trains such as commuter lines, rapid transit, and semi-tourist operations a la Maine Eastern? I remember seeing those a while ago but don't know the current state.
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby markhb » Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:26 pm

mtuandrew wrote:Also, are there Thruway trains such as commuter lines, rapid transit, and semi-tourist operations a la Maine Eastern? I remember seeing those a while ago but don't know the current state.


The Grand Canyon Railroad is ticketed as Thruway (search for station GCN). I'm not sure about any others (Maine Eastern was never thru-ticketed so far as I know, possibly because their ADA situation was iffy with their heritage equipment).
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Re: Amtrak's Thruway Bus Connections

Postby oamundsen » Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:33 pm

Have wondered about this subject for some time after several bus connections made via Amtrak: probably 8+ years ago, bus from Denver to Ft. Collins, later bus from Denver to Raton and then the city bus connections by ticketing Amtrak from Lamy to Santa Fe and also the free connector from Emeryville into San Francisco. There does not seem to be a consistent reason for this and at first I thought that if Amtrak had once served a city with a train which later was dropped they would provide a bus but that seemed not the case overall. Never have heard a logical explanation.
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