Scheduled Intercity Transportation in Rural America

Scheduled Intercity Transportation in Rural America

Nearly 93 percent of the 82 million rural residents1 in the United States lived within a 25-mile radius of an intercity rail station, an intercity bus or ferry terminal, or a nonhub or small hub2 airport or within a 75-mile radius of a large or medium hub airport in April 2005 (figure 4-18). About 29 million rural residents (35 percent) were served by all three modes, while nearly 6 million lived outside this defined coverage area of any scheduled intercity transportation service [1].

These data result from an April 2005 update to a January 2003 geographic information system analysis conducted by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) [1]. The results show that most rural residents can access scheduled transportation modes for long-distance intercity trips, based on the distance criteria BTS used. However, the analysis also shows that since the original study two years earlier about 1.1 million rural residents have lost access to intercity transportation. The most noteworthy change in the intercity network has been the elimination by Greyhound of bus service at over 400 locations as part of a system restructuring.3 Amtrak also discontinued part of a long-distance train route, eliminating service in three cities in Ohio and one in Indiana.

At the time of the April 2005 study, intercity buses reached nearly 73 million rural residents (89 percent) compared with nearly 75 million residents 2 years earlier. Scheduled airline service reached 58 million (71 percent), unchanged from 2003. Intercity rail (Amtrak and the Alaska Railroad) reached 35 million (42 percent), down by 300,000 from 2003. For 13 million residents in April 2005, bus was the sole mode providing service within 25 miles, air was the sole mode for 2.6 million rural residents, and rail was the only intercity mode for about 350,000 rural residents. The intercity ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System, serving coastal Alaska communities as well as Bellingham, Washington, were accessible to 82,000 rural residents and provided the only intercity service to about 2,000 Alaska residents.

In April 2005, the United States had nearly 4,400 intercity passenger stations, terminals, and airports. Intercity bus served 72 percent of these facilities. Of the total, 278 of the stations, terminals, and airports were located in Hawaii and Alaska.


1. U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Scheduled Intercity Transportation and the U.S. Rural Population, available at, as of June 2005.

1 Rural residents are those who live outside of urbanized areas or urban clusters as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

2 The term hub is used here within the context of individual airports rather than air traffic hubs, which can include more than one airport.

3 Replacement service for some of the locations discontinued by Greyhound was initiated by several regional bus lines.