Implementing the National Intercity Bus Atlas

The National Academies

The American intercity bus industry is poorly understood and underappreciated. Unlike the air, auto, and rail industries, a federal agency to represent the bus industry does not exist. Congress also left the bus industry out of relief passed at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the current intercity bus market is one in which carriers often view their service data as proprietary. The result is a fractured and limited picture of bus service across the United States.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine selected a team led by RSG to implement a national intercity bus atlas. This atlas will create a centralized repository of intercity bus routes and services. It will build on work started in 2019 by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which began an Intercity Bus Atlas (ICBA) initiative. The scope of the ICBA is to collect, compile, publish, and archive scheduled intercity bus service information; the ICBA does this using General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data. RSG will work closely with BTS and the Federal Geographic Data Committee Intercity Bus Working Group. A crucial element of this work will be relational. Success will hinge on the effective engagement of bus carriers to demonstrate the value to them in sharing their service data.

The project will create a flexible system with supportive tools. This will enable intercity bus companies to easily compile and upload their service data in GTFS format. This data will help close any information gaps about intercity bus services. It will also demonstrate how important the intercity network is to millions of riders every year. The tool will also offer the broader context and situational awareness sought by policymakers. The result will help them make informed funding, policy, and operational decisions about bus service at the local, state, and regional levels.

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