By Elizabeth McCullough, John O’Hear and Robert Brown
We are New York’s motorcoach and group travel tour industry. We are family and independently owned businesses, transporting 13 million residents and tourists annually across our state. We are visible in every community, servicing every region and connecting millions of Americans from Western New York across the Northeast. Now, in the devastation of the coronavirus, we are on the road to demise and our elected officials are behind the wheel.
Before Covid-19, we employed more than 11,000 hardworking individuals and contributed nearly $1.9 billion in economic revenue to the Empire State. Like many transportation industries, that has all changed and virtually every bus company across America – including our operations – has parked their buses. In New York, our industry is decimated, with more than 90% of our employees currently laid off or furloughed.
We stopped commercial operations as part of our response to the coronavirus. We support the public health restrictions put in place to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. We encourage everyone to listen to medical experts and stay at home. And, when called upon despite personal risk, we are showing our gratitude to doctors and nurses on the front lines by transporting them to hot spots where they are urgently needed.
But, like many New York business owners, we want our employees to have jobs when this crisis is over. We want to return to the road, crisscrossing the state with residents and visitors alike. That future, at this critical moment, is very uncertain.
Before Congress fled Washington, D.C., they passed a $2 trillion aid package to help large and small businesses, including those here. Our congressional delegation – Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with our 27 representatives – supported that package. It included nearly $100 billion for every mode of passenger transportation – airlines, public transit, Amtrak – except for private buses. New York’s congressional delegation ignored our pleas for assistance, leaving our industry and our employees on the side of the road.
Our buses link rural areas to urban centers, bringing workers to business campuses to do their jobs. They connect communities to train stations and bring travelers to nearby airports. Whether it's Albany or Buffalo, Syracuse or New York City, we are the intercity connectors that carry riders from point A to point B and all points in between. Your children ride safely with us on school trips and we take your families on memorable vacations along the Eastern seaboard and into neighboring Canada.
As the federal government focuses on responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis at hand, New York’s congressional delegation must not idle in neutral. Failure to strongly advocate and secure financial assistance in future federal aid packages for the motorcoach industry compounds the economic devastation already brought to thousands of New York households. Furthermore, it exponentially increases the risk of economic losses from vital local industries that rely on us to bring visitors to the region such as hospitality and tourism.
The authors are business owners: Elizabeth McCullough, D&F Travel in Amherst; John O’Hear, Bedore Tours & Charters in North Tonawanda; and Robert Brown, Brown Coach in Amsterdam.