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The Bus Industry

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Trolley And Train Museums

On April 19, 1939, the derailing of a trolley on a fan trip over the former Androscoggen and Kennebec Street Railway in Lewiston, Maine, inspired three young men to found the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, two months later. This was the beginning of a worldwide movement to establish and preserve operating street railway museums. Street railroads were disappearing quickly as buses took their place, and by the end of World War II several museums, both trolley and rail, had been established to acquire cars that otherwise would be discarded and possibly torched.

If you are a trolley or rail fan interested in a volunteer position in one of the many transportation museums that opened around the country, see the annual "Guide to Recreational Railways" in the May issue of Trains. Some of the museums offer limited full time employment also.

The Intercity People Movers

Recently when a large Concord Coach bus left Littleton, New Hampshire, bound for Colbrook, New Hampshire, sixty miles north, one passenger was aboard. Since this was not unusual, the company dropped the run, leaving all the residents of the North Country between Littleton and Canada without any bus or train service.

In November, 1982, the Bus Regulatory Reform Act went into effect making it easy for carriers to drop unprofitable runs, acquire new routes, and set their own fares and schedules without government approval. Since then the larger companies have been cutting service on many routes because former riders were now driving their own cars or taking airplanes, and this had reduced their fares. During the first two years after deregulation went into effect, some 3,700 communities lost all their bus service. This meant that most of the citizens of these communities no longer had any public surface transportation.

'The magnitude of the impact on some of these towns and some of the people cannot be expressed," Steven Menaugh, of the Kansas Corporation Commission, observed.

The picture is not all bad, however. When Robert Else, III, took over his father's bus company, King Coal Trail ways, which was headquartered in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, it was a tiny line, operating one passenger bus and carrying no more than 5,000 people for the year. Five years later a fleet of thirteen passenger buses transported some 53,000 passengers annually. Thus King Coal Trailways was a good example of how a small businessman could start a local bus line and serve an area that large companies could not afford to include on their long distance routes. Since 1982 more than a thousand operators have gone into business, bringing new service to many rural areas that otherwise would never see a bus speed along their roads.

Since buses still play an important part in our overall transportation system, it would be interesting to note how Greyhound started from a one vehicle, short haul operation and grew into the largest intercity bus carrier in the world. To do this, let's turn back the calendar to the year 1912.

The Greyhound Lines

If you have a good atlas, you will find the mining town of Hibbing, Minnesota, in the northeastern part of the state. Hibbing's chief claim to fame is probably that it is the birthplace of the giant Greyhound Corporation, which today operates more than 4,400 buses over a hundred thousand miles of routes in the United States, Alaska, Canada, and Mexico.

A Look At The Bus Industry

Buses provide many communities with their only means of public transportation to and from the outside world. Those who live in large cities may find that the bus is a convenient alternative to air and rail travel. In fact, over short distances, such as between Boston and Providence, or New York and Philadelphia, your bus may prove almost as fast as a plane or train, and the service may be more frequent. Bus terminals are usually located in the heart of the city, whereas the railroad station may not be as convenient. In addition, there are those bus lines that provide intrastate service (operate wholly within one state) and companies that offer charter or other special services to the public.

Unlike other forms of transportation, which need to maintain stations or terminals with a number of workers at each stop where passengers board or leave their planes or trains, buses are uniquely able to eliminate this expense in most of the communities they serve. The comer garage, drugstore, or newsstand serves as a waiting room for passengers, and the owner sells tickets and provides travel information. These arrangements cut down on the number of employees required to operate a rural bus system.

It does not take a mathematical genius to realize that apart from the leader in the industry, Greyhound, the other companies offer limited employment opportunities. Openings would be mostly for clerical positions, some ticket agents, and mechanics to service and repair the vehicles, cleaners, and perhaps a few custodians if the bus line operated its own terminal. Openings will vary according to the size of a company and the complexity of its operations. The very largest operators might offer additional employment possibilities for dispatchers, computer specialists, accountants, and applicants with an economics and/or statistical background. These last two specialties might qualify applicants as forecasters, rate and schedule specialists, and financial analysts. So called professionals, public relations specialists, attorneys, and business librarians would find little or no real opportunities in this area.

Since the business of transporting passengers by bus is uncomplicated, a small company can operate profitably with a half dozen buses, a few drivers, and as many other employees as needed to keep the books, sell tickets, and service the vehicles. For most companies it is a "bus and driver" business. The driver is the most important employee in the business because he or she is the operator of the bus, and to the passenger that person is the company.
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