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Greyhound eliminates Paducah bus service without warning

The Paducah Greyhound Lines bus station on Irvin Cobb Drive.
WKMS
/
Derek Operle
The Paducah Greyhound bus station on Irvin Cobb Drive.

Paducah is no longer a destination or a point of departure for Greyhound buses.

The iconic intercity bus line has been transporting people to and from the far western Kentucky city for over 90 years. The Smith Motor Coach Company added a stop to what would become the Dixie Greyhound Line in 1930. Greyhound acquired a majority interest in the company the next year, connecting Paducah to major regional hubs like Chicago, Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Memphis, Tennessee.

Those decades of service came to an unannounced halt recently when the company stopped service to Paducah without announcement, leaving contractors, community groups and government agencies that rely on Greyhound services in the lurch.

A spokesman for Greyhound confirmed in an email Friday that service to Paducah had been “eliminated,” but that buses could return to Paducah “if the amount of business makes it feasible.”

Brian Mannon is the owner/operator of M&M Transportation, a local company that operates a bus station on Paducah’s Southside and contracts with the bus line to sell tickets. He has personally sold Greyhound bus tickets locally for more than three decades.

“They have failed to tell me exactly what's going on,” Mannon said. “I've not heard from anyone about if this is temporary or they’re restructuring or if it's permanent or whatever, but I'm under contract just to sell tickets for them and they haven't told me anything.”

Mannon confirmed Monday that a regional Greyhound manager noted “low volume” as the reason for the route shutdown. Tickets are still being sold for stops in Clarksville, Tennessee, and in Mount Vernon, Illinois. No further service changes or wider route contractions have been confirmed by Greyhound.

The company saw a major decrease in fares during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a CNBC report. That downturn was followed by the shutdown of all Greyhound services in Canada and the sale of Greyhound Lines Inc. to FlixMobility, a German transportation startup, in 2021.

Mannon said, if the service is permanently eliminated, he’ll just have to “do something different.”

“I’d just have to try to get a contract with another bus company to come through here,” he said. “I'm just a private business, and this is my business – selling tickets. So I’d just have to find something else to do.”

It’s not just tourists that will have to find another way – many community nonprofits, companies and government agencies purchase Greyhound tickets as cheap transportation for clients, employees and other people in need of a ride.

Local river transportation companies also use the intercity bus network to transport crew to major ports and stops along the inland waterways, something that’s now going to be more difficult.

Paducah Cooperative Ministry provides emergency grocery and food supplies to hundreds of families weekly, as well as providing shelters for women and children experiencing homelessness. The nonprofit group also provides assistance with costs like rent, utilities, prescription medication, transportation and identification replacement, among other things. PCM also regularly buys tickets for people to transport them out of far western Kentucky if local homeless shelters are full or if transportation is beyond their means.

Lacy Boling, the nonprofit’s executive director, said PCM uses Greyhound’s services just twice a month on average, but that the loss of service is still “profound.”

“It's a big loss for us, maybe not numerically but situationally. That's a tough spot to be in, and we like having Greyhound available for those folks,” she said. “We have to scramble to find alternate services. Greyhound was cost-effective for us. I don't know how to taxi someone to Nashville … I don't know another service that fills that spot.”

McCracken County Jailer David Knight said the state regularly purchases Greyhound tickets to transport newly released inmates to their home region or to transitional facilities like halfway houses. He said he was also caught off guard by the service elimination.

“I'm not really sure where I'm gonna go from here because that's what we use. I wouldn’t say it's every day, but it's not uncommon either,” Knight said. “I don't know what our options are gonna be. You can’t really send an Uber [from here] to eastern Kentucky.”

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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