Greyhound pulls J.C. to Boone, N.C. route

 By Thomas Wilson
 star staff
 twilson@starhq.com
  Greyhound Lines transportation company has announced it will discontinue a regional bus route from Johnson City to Boone, N.C. later this month due to falling revenues and the loss of a state subsidy that funded the route.
  In a letter to Elizabethton Mayor Sam LaPorte, Greyhound Lines announced the route and stop in Elizabethton would end effective Aug. 18. The existing route brings Greyhound buses through Elizabethton on State Route 67 and U.S. Highway 19E where it continues through Roan Mountain and Newland, N.C. to Boone.
  "Greyhound has been looking at all of its routes and schedules and determining whether or not they were profitable," said Lynn Brown, vice president of corporate communications for Greyhound Lines, Inc. in Dallas, Texas. "We can no longer run schedules that cost us more to run than they bring in."
  The letter reads that since 2001 Greyhound passenger levels have declined dramatically along with revenues. The company endured a major financial blow from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
  According to the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, passenger boardings fell from 25.4 million in 2000 to 21.9 million in 2003. That decline was also reflected in earnings with revenues falling from more than $1 billion in 2001 to $975 million in 2003.
  She said Greyhound suffered combined losses of $140 million for the 2002 and 2003 fiscal years. Brown said travelers who usually opted for Greyhound's down-to-earth transportation had sought to stay home in recent years.
  "After 9-11 people stopped traveling," said Brown. "Leisure trips went down dramatically."
  A contributing factor in the decision to discontinue the route came when the North Carolina Department of Transportation told Greyhound earlier this year that it was ending a state subsidy supporting the route. She said the company had been making changes on various routes across the country with renewed focus on a 13-state loop of Western states between Chicago and Seattle. The company's restructuring meant some Greyhound carriers would be temporarily put out of service following the peak season, Brown said.
  "After our summer peak we will park some of the buses," she said.
  Famous for its canine logo, Greyhound was founded in 1914 as the Mesaba Transportation Company in Hibbing, Minn. The company was later incorporated under the Greyhound name in 1930. The current Greyhound Lines was organized in 1987 after it purchased the United States bus holdings of the former Greyhound Corporation. Laidlaw, Inc. acquired Greyhound in 1999.
  The Greyhound fleet consists of more than 2,400 buses. Including all stops, the company serves nearly 2,500 destinations in the United States. Greyhound employs more than 12,000 nationwide, including nearly 1,100 at its Dallas corporate headquarters and more than 4,600 drivers based in 89 locations across the country.