Development and Implementation of the National Intercity Bus Atlas (NIBA)

The purpose of this research project is to develop a national atlas of intercity bus services that utilizes General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data, is publicly available, can be maintained to a high level of currency, and is complementary to the National Transit Map. Although the network of intercity bus services represents the most comprehensive national coverage provided by any of the intercity modes, there has not been any comprehensive, complete, and up-to-date inventory of these services until recently. Such an inventory has been needed by policy-makers, planners, operators of complementary services, and the industry itself to understand and depict the current state of the intercity bus network, its role, its connections with local transit, and its role with regard to Amtrak and commercial air service. This mode has gone unrecognized for its critical role in connecting America’s rural areas, small and large cities—in part because of lack of information about the national network it provides, and in part because most of this network is operated without federal or state subsidies. At a number of times in the past such a tool would have been extremely useful for policy analysis, for research, and for planning for improved connectivity. For example, it could have been used to determine the impacts on service levels, connectivity and mobility of such events as the Greyhound restructuring of 2004-2005, or the growth of curbside services such as (Megabus, Flixbus, etc.) that have developed over the past decade. The major federal program of assistance for intercity bus service has been the Section 5311(f) program, providing federal funding to support intercity bus services serving rural areas. This program provides for a 15% set-aside of each state’s allocation of Section 5311 funding, unless the state certifies that there are no unmet rural intercity needs. The 15% set-aside amounts to nearly $100 million per year, yet there is no map that can be used to help evaluate unmet needs, or to show which routes are funded by this program. Decisions are being made regarding Amtrak services, and there is no publicly-available national map that shows how intercity bus services relate to Amtrak, whether as part of the Amtrak network (Amtrak Thruway), complementary connecting service, or even directly competitive service. Policy issues regarding the Essential Air Service program could also benefit from the existence of a current atlas in intercity bus services that would show how rural areas are connected to the national airline system. By using GTFS, which includes not only the routes (assigned to the highway network), but exact latitude and longitude of stops and terminals, and the schedules/frequency of service, this network can be linked to other data such as the National Transit Map to assess connectivity and to Census or health data, allowing assessments of the degree to which mobility and access exist from rural areas. The ability to know exactly where the stops are located allows for assessment of connections to transit, as it will be possible to finally know the proximity of intercity bus and transit stops. If such a tool exists and is maintained, by saving each update it will be possible to monitor trends in coverage or service levels over time. Finally, a major potential benefit is that by promoting the development of GTFS data for inclusion in this map, the industry may also see that this data can be used for trip-planning purposes if made available to information providers such as Google Transit—allowing potential travelers to know the all the connecting services needed to make multi-modal trips. Potential users of this tool include state DOTs, state, regional and local planning agencies; policy researchers; the academic community; trade associations; and the industry itself. Prior to deregulation of the intercity bus industry by the Bus Regulatory Reform Act (BRRA) of 1982, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and state regulatory agencies controlled the routes and fares of virtually all carriers. Although these agencies had this information, it was not publicly available, though the overwhelming majority of intercity bus carriers made their schedules and routes known through a publicly available, industry-wide schedule book, the National Motorcoach Guide, published by Russell’s (commonly known as Russell’s Guide or just Russell’s). This monthly publication was not generally used by individuals, but was in the hands of virtually every ticket agent in the country, and could be used by knowledgeable researchers to analyze services and monitor changes. However, it was not easy, because the Guide was not searchable, had no comprehensive maps, and was constructed of individual timetables for each company. Since deregulation there has been a lack of information about this mode and its role, with occasional and sporadic efforts to develop a map for industry promotion, or to attempt to address the impact of deregulation and industry changes. This includes two studies of rural access by the U.S. DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the last of which took place nearly a decade ago. However, Michael Buiting, an individual interested in providing the public information that could be used to plan trips that involved multiple carriers voluntarily developed a national intercity bus map. The independent and unbiased map is available from the American Intercity Bus Riders Association’s (AIBRA) website (http://www.kfhgroup.com/aibra/pdf/usmap.pdf). He keeps the map up to date through his carefully developed network of industry contacts and by constantly reviewing published timetables. The AIBRA map is in a CAD (computer aided drafting) format, and stops are shown as cities with no identification of terminal addresses. Despite these limitations, this map slowly became recognized as the only consistent, comprehensive and up-to-date depiction of the national intercity bus network. The industry and planners use the map to identify gaps in service and potential connections. This project is intended to support the development and implementation of the NIBA as an ongoing, comprehensive and publicly available inventory of intercity bus services. While BTS has developed the structure and platform to house and maintain the NIBA, research is needed to populate the NIBA with GTFS data. The research team will need to work closely with BTS and its working group to accomplish this project. The end product of this research will be the populated and functioning NIBA, and a technical report addressing the activities, results, issues and future directions of this effort. It will include a base map of the national intercity bus network—as defined in this process, current as of the conclusion of this inventory—a functioning process for maintaining the map, and potential additional uses and research that can be conducted using this tool. It will also include a plan for future development of the NIBA, and the resources needed to maintain and improve it.

Language

  • English

Project

  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $600000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-133

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Parker, Stephan

  • Start Date: 20190603
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01707717
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-133
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jun 3 2019 3:17PM