"The bus is back," says Fred G. Currey.
What bus? Why, Greyhound, of course. Was it ever gone? Well, no, but the 1980s haven't been good to the intercity transporter. A year or so ago, many questioned whether the nation would continue to have scheduled cross-country bus service in 1988.But things are looking up, says Currey, chairman and president of Greyhound Lines Inc. (GLI). He was in Salt Lake CityWednesday to meet with local employees and preview some innovations the company hopes will improve customer service this summer and bring people back to bus travel.
"By removing the uncertainty about the future of Greyhound Lines, we have restored consumer confidence," said Currey. "Now we are committed to real improvements in customer service."
It must be working. Passenger figures are way up nationally, and Utah heads the list. At this time last year, 23,801 passengers had departed Salt Lake City via Greyhound. So far in 1988, that figure is 35,941 a startling 51 percent increase.
The way Currey and his two partners "removed the uncertainty" of Greyhound's future was to buy the bus line reportedly for $350 million but the new owners won't confirm that from Phoenix-based The Greyhound Corp. The new, privately held Greyhound Lines Inc. is now headquartered in Dallas.
As Greyhound Lines spokesman George Gravley explains it, Greyhound Corp. had lost interest in its floundering subsidiary the nation's largest intercity bus line preferring to put its effort and capital into such corporate subsidiaries as Dial soap, Armour meats, various financial services companies and the subsidiary that builds Greyhound buses.
From 1980 through 1986, routes were cut, employees lost, the number of buses halved, terminals allowed to deteriorate, and bitter labor strikes had deteriorated employee morale. "They were just about out of the bus business," Gravley told the Deseret News.
Thus, in March 1987, Greyhound Corp. put its bus line up for sale. Enter Currey and company with money, experience (Currey is former president of the corporation that owned Trailways) and the determination to put Greyhound solidly back on the road.
Four months later, last July, GLI also bought the near-bankrupt Trailways bus line. In the past year the new company has added 320 new buses to the fleet, bringing the total to 3,750 operating in 48 states.
Now the turnaround is under way in earnest, said Currey, and Greyhound Lines expects this summer season to be the busiest in a decade. To meet that demand and restore Greyhound's national image as a viable carrier GLI is adding new routes and destinations to the system, modernizing the fleet by adding new buses and refurbishing old ones, renovating some 100 terminals and training the company's 12,000 employees in customer service.
GLI is also attempting to double its market share in the $1.3 billion charter industry a hotly competitive segment of the bus business and will open charter sales offices in 66 markets over the next two years.
Also, GLI is launching a national campaign to reconnect rural communities with urban areas via cooperative programs with small rural transportation systems. And six new contracts have been signed with urban transit systems throughout the country.
Currey said the "new" Greyhound Lines is overlooking nothing in its quest to make the bus a viable alternative to cars, planes and trains. Innovations recently put in place range from tally cards to improve luggage tracking to a new computerized system to cut ticketing time in half.
Apparently many Americans think no one rides intercity buses anymore. They are wrong, said Anthony Lannie, executive vice president and one of Currey's two partners, pointing out that GLI had $800 million in revenues last year from carrying 30 million passengers.
"All we need is for our customers to take one more trip per year. That will give us what we need," said Lannie.