Hundreds of buses deluge Washington, drivers calling for help for sector
Washington, May 13 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of private buses from all over the United States on Wednesday flooded into the streets of Washington as their drivers gathered to protest the lack of US government aid for the sector amid the coronavirus crisis despite the subsidies provided to airlines and railroads.
The “purpose of the rally is to get the attention of Congress and let them know we are here and we are asking for support,” Patrick Goebel, vice president of Barons Bus Services, told local media outlets.
“If things do not change, there’s a possibility we could go almost a full year without revenue for our charter service,” the head of the Cleveland-based company said.
According to the American Bus Association, the sector’s main organization, these firms employ a total of 100,000 people, 90 percent of whom have been laid off during the pandemic.
This is the case for Don Way, with the All-Ways Trans Plus company based in Ashland, Kentucky, who said that he had to fire all his workers after completely suspending operations on March 15, and the bus sector has been left out of government stimulus programs.
Way drove one of his buses to the Washington protest to bring pressure to bear on the government for some kind of financial aid for the private bus sector, considered to be one of the pillars of US ground transport.
Way said that his company has lost $240,000 in income since March and does not expect any improvement for months, given the public’s fear about traveling during the pandemic.
“The airlines, hotel industry, cruise ships pretty much got bailed out. We were a total forgotten industry,” said Way, adding that “The major hub of ground transportation is the charter bus industry” and the bus protesters are asking Congress to provide them with enough funds to “cover our costs” while they remain inactive during the pandemic.
A similar situation is being experience by John Lizak, president of the Lizak Bus Service in Warren, Massachusetts, who said that without a bailout he’s definitely going to have to close the firm.
“I haven’t seen a dollar in two months. And I don’t see anything changing in the foreseeable future,” he said, adding that “The industry is hurting. If we don’t get bailed out, we are not going to be around. It’s as simple as that.”
The industry says that with subsidies, loan guarantees and other aid valued at $15 billion they will be able to confront the business slump.
The bus protest was organized by the American Bus Association and the United Motor Coach Association, who hoped to be able to bring 1,000 buses to Washington in a procession more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) long.
According to sector figures, the US bus industry is made up of about 3,000 companies operating some 36,000 vehicles that move almost 600 million users per year, generating more than $237 billion in transportation, travel and tourism income.