Democrats urge U.S. to provide at least $5 billion in loans to bus industry


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two senior U.S. House Democrats on Friday asked the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve to direct at least $5 billion in loans to struggling intercity bus companies because of the coronavirus pandemic.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal and Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio said 80% to 95% of motorcoach trips have been canceled or are not being booked, and scheduled service operations are down 80% to 90% and over 3,000 companies are affected.

“If bus companies go out of business, hundreds of thousands of travelers who rely on buses to get to their jobs and reach vital services, intermodal connections and educational facilities, especially in rural America, risk losing what may be their only means of transportation,” they wrote.

Treasury did not immediately provide a comment.

Peter Pan Bus Lines, which serves 100 communities in the U.S. Northeast, has halted all service through May 15. Greyhound, the largest provider of U.S. intercity bus transportation, has sharply reduced its schedule. It typically carries around 16 million passengers a year.

Other bus companies including BoltBus have also temporarily halted service. Megabus has halted all trips in and out of New York City through May 18.

Last month, the U.S motorcoach industry asked Congress for $10 billion in grants and $5 billion in loans and the American Bus Association on Friday reiterated that request.

The trade groups noted nearly 600 million passenger trips are taken annually on buses and estimated the industry would lose nearly $8 billion through August. The industry employs about 88,000 people and in 2018 generated $15.35 billion in revenue.

Congress has provided billions of dollars to bail out other transit sectors, including $25 billion for public transit systems, $1 billion for U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak, $25 billion in grants and loans to U.S. airlines and $10 billion for U.S. airports.

Without a robust national bus network, the lawmakers wrote, “our national emergency response capabilities are at risk, as motorcoaches provide key evacuation services during times of weather- and security- related events.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang