Greyhound cuts routes to several Black Belt cities

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

REGION-For many citizens of the Black Belt who do not own automobiles transportation just got a little tougher. Greyhound Lines Inc. announced recently that effective June 21, it would cut stops in several Black Belt cities including Demopolis, Eutaw, Livingston, York, Marion and Uniontown. Other are communities that will lose service are Camden, Grove Hill and Pine Hill. Altogether, around 40 cities are expected to feel the pinch of the Greyhound cutbacks.

The changes come as part of ongoing network restructuring efforts being done by Greyhound Lines, Inc that will streamline and simplify its route network in the Southeast region, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The changes are aimed at making travel more enjoyable for the majority of customers and are expected to eliminate time-consuming and costly stops in areas where customer demand is low to nonexistent.

Stephen E. Gorman, president and CEO, Greyhound Lines Inc., said after evaluating the situation they felt it was best to focus on areas with larger demands rather than areas that yielded only a marginal profit.

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“Financial results and customer feedback in the areas we restructured to date have favorably exceeded our expectations and significantly increased our revenue per mile,” Gorman said. “This has given us the confidence to move quickly into other regions and create a network that will improve service for our customers and eliminate marginally profitable routes and schedules.”

The restructured Greyhound network is expected to be more efficient, serving areas where customer demand is greatest through a smaller, simpler network of routes that is short- and medium-haul focused.

Approximately 260 locations, more than 50 percent of which have zero outbound sales, will no longer be served by Greyhound. This completes approximately 62 percent of the Greyhound network transformation.

While the changes may benefit the company, they will also deal a serious blow to the Black Belt. Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said Greyhound is a service the Black Belt desperately needs, as was evident at Tuesday nights Black Belt Action Commission meeting in Marion. Williamson said she has discussed the cutbacks with several local mayors and they were looking for solutions.

“This area has proven to be an area in need of transportation,” Williamson said. “We are being very proactive on this. I have talked with the mayor of Selma, the mayor of Eutaw and some others and we are planning a conference call to Congressman Artur Davis.”

Williamson has wasted little time in looking for answers. She said she has already written letters along with other local leaders and hopes they can find a way to prevent cutbacks in what is a great need for the Black Belt.

“I have written a letter and Jay Shows has written a letter on behalf of the Center for Economic Development,” Williamson said. “We are going to do more than write letters. We plan to be very proactive to see that this does not happen.”

Black Belt citizens are not the only ones who will be hurt by eliminated routes in the area. The University of West Alabama, Judson College and Marion Military Institute are all home to students who commute from far away places and do not have automobiles.

Livingston Mayor Tom Tartt, whose city will be heavily affected by the cutbacks, said the changes came as a surprise to him.

“It just kind of hit us out of the blue,” Tartt said. “We hadn’t really heard anything about it we just received a letter from them saying they would discontinue the route.”

Like Williamson, Tartt recognized the immense need for public transportation and said he anxious to find a solution to the proposed cutback.

“Here in West Central Alabama we have a large customer dependency on them for transportation,” Tartt said. “We are very concerned with how those people will gain transportation.”

The closest two terminals for most Black Belt cities will now be Meridian, Miss. or Tuscaloosa. Tartt also said Greyhound informed him they would put some independent bus lines in contact with the city to see if they could establish a route.

“We’re exploring other avenues,” Tartt said. “We are inviting other bus lines to fill the gap.”

Other cities who will lose their Greyhound service are: Andalusia, Athens, Auburn, Bessemer, Centreville, Childersburg, Clanton, Cullman, Enterprise, Eufala, Evergreen, Florence, Hurtsboro, Jackson, Jasper, Lanett, Mount Vernon, Phenix City, Selma, Sulligent, Sylacauga, Talladega, Union Springs, West Blocton and Winfield.

Greyhound will continue service in Anniston, Birmingham, Decatur, Dothan, Gadsden, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Opelika, Troy, Tuscaloosa and Tuskegee.