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Environmentalists, fiscal conservatives suggest buses instead of planes

The recent FAA reauthorization bill contains funding for Essential Air Service, a program under which the government subsidizes rural flights, by up to $1,600 per trip. An unlikely group of environmentalists and libertarians are now looking to express buses to provide a cheaper, greener, alternative. According to Streetsblog Capitol Hill:

“The House wanted to end the federal subsidies funding the service (even though Republicans disproportionately represent rural districts) except for routes in Alaska and Hawaii, which would still be eligible for federal subsidies. The Reason Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Bus Association, and Taxpayers for Common Sense – groups with wildly divergent missions – have come together to figure out if those communities could be connected more sustainably by using buses instead of planes.Of the 153 communities served by what’s known as essential air service, many are long distances from major airports, especially the large proportion in Alaska. But M.J. Bradley and Associates, which was commissioned by the four groups to write the study, “Keeping Rural Communities Connected,” found that 38 of the 153 airports served – about a quarter of the total – were within 150 miles of a hub airport. They found that 79,000 one-way flights leave each year out of those 38 airports, carrying 615,000 passengers, at a total cost of $131 million. Of that, about $60 million is government subsidy and $70 million comes from fares. M.J. Bradley found that equivalent bus service could be offered for just $41 million, for a savings of $90 million. Average passenger costs would go down by as much as $285 per round trip.” (via)

Switching away from planes to express buses would save almost 6 million gallons of gas a year, and cut carbon pollution by over 63,000 tons.

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