Forum editorial: DOT saves rural N.D. bus service
A quick response to Greyhound's decision to drop service everywhere in North Dakota west of Fargo has generated very good results. Last week Gov. John Hoeven and the state Department of Transportation announced that Rimrock Trailways of Billings,...
A quick response to Greyhound's decision to drop service everywhere in North Dakota west of Fargo has generated very good results. Last week Gov. John Hoeven and the state Department of Transportation announced that Rimrock Trailways of Billings, Mont., would drive in when Greyhound drives out. Rimrock's decision apparently means the change in carriers will be seamless. The new company is ready to take over the same day, Aug. 18, that Greyhound quits.
That's good news, not only for North Dakotans who rely on relatively inexpensive bus travel, but also for people across the nation who take the bus to come to North Dakota. Greyhound said part of its problem was declining ridership, although anecdotal evidence from bus users suggested the buses were full. The other issue, however, was the cost of moving those buses over the vast distances of the Upper Midwest. The company said it lost millions of dollars in the last few years serving the region.
So what's to say that Rimrock (or other carriers considering starting service) can make a buck? First, Rimrock plans to use smaller buses on the three daily routes now served by Greyhound. And Rimrock might not make all the stops Greyhound makes. Second, Rimrock and other carriers might have to raise fares. Third, the potential new lines seem more financially sound than Greyhound. Greyhound is considering making more cuts in other parts of the country in order to stem losses.
Whatever the final shape of new bus service in North Dakota, credit must be given to DOT director Dave Sprynczynatyk, his staff and the governor for putting full attention to the bus issue as soon as Greyhound announced its pullout. By opening the state's door to other carriers - indeed, welcoming their competition for service - state transportation officials have all but guaranteed bus service will be uninterrupted. That is good work.
The problems afflicting Greyhound, specifically the population decline in rural states, won't go away. The new bus companies will confront the same demographic shifts. Their test will be to manage their North Dakota operations to provide good service at a price that will attract riders and keep the companies solvent.
Greyhound, the old reliable in the nation's bus service history, couldn't do it. Our hope is that smaller, more efficient regional bus companies can.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board