Scheduled Intercity Travel Times

Scheduled Intercity Travel Times

Intercity air, bus and rail schedules in many major intercity markets are tending to grow longer. Between February 1995 and February 2002, advertised travel times in selected city-pairs experienced varying degrees of schedule lengthening in most service categories.

A Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) study in 2003 found that the extent of changes in scheduled travel time differed by mode (figure 12). In at least half of the direct service city-pairs (no transfer en route) studied for each mode, scheduled travel times were longer. Scheduled trip time increased in 177 of 261 nonstop airline city-pairs studied (68 percent), 44 of 72 direct rail service city pairs (61 percent), and 67 of 129 direct service intercity bus city-pairs (52 percent). For rail, 108 of 174 city-pairs (62 percent) with an en route transfer experienced longer travel times in 2002 compared with several years earlier. Although slightly more than half of direct service bus markets experienced longer scheduled travel times, 73 of 121 connecting bus city-pairs (60 percent) experienced equal or shorter travel times. Overall 46 percent of the intercity bus city-pairs had longer schedules.

BTS weighted the city-pair results by the number of scheduled frequencies to quantify the degree of scheduled travel time change in the markets studied. Overall, intercity bus scheduled trip time decreased by 1.2 percent while airline schedule times increased by 3.2 percent. While a majority of rail markets saw longer trip times, a 7.8 percent decrease in scheduled trip time in the high-frequency Northeast Corridor (NEC) markets resulted in an overall 0.4 percent decrease in weighted average Amtrak city-pair scheduled travel time.

A variety of factors contribute to scheduled travel time change, and more than one factor may affect the same mode. For example, scheduled trip times for direct intercity bus service increased, but in city-pairs involving an en route transfer, scheduled trip times decreased as greater frequencies compared to 1995 resulted in shortened transfer times. For rail service, route changes, breaking of direct connections between trains, introduction of mail and express package handling at intermediate stations, and congestion or changes in track conditions on routes shared with freight trains all resulted in longer scheduled times. On the other hand, technology and infrastructure improvements in conjunction with the start of Amtrak’s Acela Express helped decrease intercity rail scheduled travel time in NEC city-pairs. The largest percentage increases in airline trip times came in the shorter distance city-pairs. This is likely due to airport congestion, which affects all flights but has a greater proportional impact on shorter flights.

See box for City-Pairs Analysis

Sources

1. National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak), National, Northeast and Schedule Change Timetables, 1994/1995 and 2001/2002 issues.

2. Greyhound Lines, System Timetable (Dallas, TX: January 1995).

3. OAG Worldwide Limited, OAG Flight Schedules database (Downer’s Grove, IL: February 1995 and February 2002).

4. Russell’s Guides, Russell’s Official National Motor Coach Guide (Cedar Rapids, IA: January 1995 and February 2002).