Concord Coach Lines will restart passenger bus service between Maine and Boston in mid-August, resuming service it suspended over four months ago in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The New Hampshire-based bus operator will begin with a reduced-frequency daily service between Maine and Boston’s South Station and Logan Airport on Aug. 16.

“We feel like at this juncture, with all the protocols we have come up with, we can get back on the road safely,” Concord Coach Vice President Benjamin Blunt said in an interview.

The company has enacted safety measures including Plexiglas shields at ticketing counters, bus gates and between seat rows in its buses; contactless ticketing; a mask requirement on buses and in terminals; regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces and electrostatic foggers to disinfect buses daily.

Only 34 passengers will be allowed on each bus, down from the normal 51, the company said. Passengers will not be allowed to sit close to the driver or directly next to other passengers who are not in their group.

Though New England has done a better job than other parts of the country managing the spread of coronavirus, Blunt does not expect a return to full, pre-pandemic operations anytime soon.


The company will run about 25 percent of its normal service and expects demand to be about 20 percent of what it normally would be for this time of the year, he said. Ticket prices will remain the same: $24 for a one-way trip between Portland and Boston.

“I think it will be many months – probably years – before we get back to pre-pandemic levels,” Blunt said. “We provide essential connections; we want to be in a place to build some forward momentum to rebound along with the rest of the country and world.”

Concord stopped all service in late March after stay-at-home orders were enacted across New England and passengers were exposed to the coronavirus on one of its buses between Boston and New Hampshire. More than 640,000 passengers rode its buses in 2018, making it the biggest intercity transit service in the state.

The new service will run eight round trips per day between Portland and Boston, with stops at South Station and Logan Airport. Two trips will be run from Boston, Auburn and Augusta, and one trip will run up the coastal route with stops up the Midcoast between Portland and Bangor.

Concord Coach Lines got financial help to restart its service, receiving $1.5 million in federal CARES Act funding through the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System to pay for its operations in the Portland to Boston corridor over the next year, according to PACTS documents.

Recent studies from countries that have successfully managed COVID-19 outbreaks suggest traveling on public transit is less risky than previously assumed.


Busy transit agencies in Paris, Tokyo and Austria showed few or no coronavirus clusters linked to public transit when face coverings, social distancing and sanitation procedures were followed, according to a research review by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign in New York and reporting from Scientific American. The Amtrak Downeaster has run multiple passenger trains between Boston and Brunswick since mid-July with no reported outbreaks.

Intercity buses and charter coaches have taken a beating during the pandemic. Residents have avoided travel, some states have restrictions on visitors and many charter trips have been canceled. The American Bus Association estimates the $15 billion industry is running at about 15 percent of capacity.

“People are not up and moving, they are not traveling in any kind of normal pattern yet,” said Peter Pantuso, president and CEO of the American Bus Association. “I don’t think we will see much difference between now and the end of the year.”

Bus companies are following or going beyond protocols developed by the association to provide safe service during the pandemic, Pantuso added.

“If they are following all those steps, it is hard to imagine there is a safer way to travel than by bus or motor coach,” he said.

Between 15 percent and 40 percent of the U.S. passenger bus industry, including commuter lines, scheduled intercity service and charter buses, could go out of business because of the pandemic, Pantuso said. The association has pushed for a targeted bailout to bus companies struggling with little to no revenue.

In July, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island introduced a bill that would provide up to $10 billion in grants to transportation companies that have been negatively affected by the pandemic. The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, and 23 other senators.

Pantuso hopes that bill will be folded into a future economic relief bill passed by Congress.

“We need assistance – we need help as an industry to stay alive,” he said.

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