When I was a boy, the US had a robust network of intercity commercial transit services, run by Greyhound and Trailways. These services didn’t just link the biggest cities. They also linked smaller towns and cities, too small or too close for airlines to serve.
In my home state of Oregon, for example, the network looked like this.
We often rode Greyhound (blue) or Trailways (red) from Portland to the then-small towns of Central Oregon (150 miles) or on one one of four routes out to towns on the coast, 60-100 miles away.
Almost all of those services are gone. Private intercity bus companies, including new players like Megabus, stick to linking big cities. All that remains is a minimal state-funded service called Point, one or two trips a day, mostly to feed Amtrak.
Transit agencies have done their best, but the US habit of organizing transit in county-level agencies means that many obvious services don’t exist. Consider Eugene, Oregon (metro population about 250,000 with a big university). It has a city bus line (4 trips/day) to the small mountain town of McKenzie Bridge, 53 miles away, but there’s no line to go the 41 miles to Corvallis (population 58,000 with the state’s other major university). Why? McKenzie Bridge happens to be in the same county, and Corvallis in a different one.
Australia has similar geography to many US states but features state control of all public transit. Local governments, including the rural ones that are comparable to US counties, have little role. This arrangement has big downsides, but it does mean that state government actively organizes the long transit lines linking small cities, often with rail but extended as needed with buses. As a result, there’s a viable public transit option for intertown travel in many parts of Austraila.
We have worked for several county and municipal transit agencies on addressing this problem. All are doing their best. Some have formed interesting partnerships, such Oregon’s NW Connector, to extend service a ways into adjacent counties and present multi-county networks in an integrated way. But the mission of a county or municipal agency just does not let them run the long, continuous routes that make sense for these markets.
So bravo to the State of Colorado for a new initiative to expand state-funded service for obviously intercity links across their state. Oregon is in the early stages of developing more such services, thanks to a new statewide funding source. What is your state doing in this regard?