How can intercity bus competition strengthen Southern California transit without tapping into precious public transit funds? One traveler recently took a bus trip along a California intercity corridor served by two competing private bus carriers: Greyhound and Megabus. When the blue Megabus coaches came into California, Greyhound knew that it no longer had monopoly power of intercity services and therefore needed to upgrade its services and lower fares in order to compete. Of course when that happens, riders benefit with better bus service.
Last year in the Inland Empire, Stagecoach Group PLC brought Megabus into the state. In the Inland Empire, double-deck Megabus coaches operate non-stop express service between the Riverside Downtown Metrolink Station and Las Vegas. Also inland, Transportes Intercalifornias provides intercity service to/from Mexico with intermediate stops. To this day, numerous casino buses ferry passengers from all over Southern California to the Inland Empire’s gaming resorts. If this pattern continues, and carriers are inclined to connect with buses at existing transit centers, we may be able to travel through Southern California one day by bus during any time of the day at reasonable fares.
Inland public transit bus riders, especially those who are far from Metrolink, have demanded that public bus agencies like RTA and Omnitrans expand existing commuter express service to an all day service span so that riders can quickly connect to other portions of Southern California anytime of the day, but the agencies lack the public resources to do so. Greyhound still holds some monopoly power on many corridors which obstructs improvements. However when additional private carriers compete for high markets along the SR-91, I-15, I-215, and I-10 freeway corridors with competitive fares, riders benefit with the additional express bus service at times when public peak hour express services are not available. What can be done to entice an existing or start-up carrier to offer intercity express services with stops at existing Southern California transit hubs? Here are some conceptual routes through the Inland Empire with high market demands that could certainly use better competition.