Bus riders beware: Bolt Bus's days of dominance may be numbered. That is, if its biggest competitor Megabus succeeds in convincing regulators that Bolt Bus, a line that's co-operated by both Greyhound and Peter Pan thanks to a 1990s regulation allowing bus companies to pool resources, needs to be broken up. Megabus, which is owned by Coach USA, is already the country's largest "curbside bus carrier," Bloomberg's Jeff Plungis explains, but that hasn't stopped its leadership from filing three separate complaints in the past two years, alleging that Bolt Bus is more or less breaking anti-trust laws. "When the decision to pool was agreed upon, it was totally different times," Coach USA's chief executive Dale Moser told Bloomberg. "The whole business environment with intercity buses has changed. It isn't the 1990s anymore." Greyhound's lawyer calls Megabus's attempts to break them up "an astonishing misuse of the regulatory process."
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Moser's right about one thing. The bus business has changed radically in the last decade, thanks in part to the competition sparked by the popularity of Chinatown buses along the Eastern seaboard and certainly boosted by thrifty travelers looking to save a buck. On Monday, Bloomberg's Plungis -- this guy's really owning the bus beat -- reported on a study showing how back in 2006 WiFi helped reverse a 46-year decline in the bus industry. Matthew Yglesias offers this somewhat sobering interpretation of how the success of busses stands to become a big problem in the not-too-distant future:
A little bit lost in the shuffle in the ideological wrangling that seems to have killed dreams of high-speed rail is that as the U.S. adds a hundred million new people over the next forty years, we're definitely going to have to do something to accommodate their movements. We're not exactly building dozens of new airports and you're not going to cut a brand new freeway through New Jersey.
Picture Amtrak sitting ringside as Megabus and Bolt Bus duke it out over the right to carry Americans to and from urban centers. Regardless of who wins this match, we're looking forward to better, cheaper transportation. And maybe this will finally motivate all three of the companies to offer better wireless.
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