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Q&A with Pamela Wolff: How Green is Bus/Motor CoachTravel?

Last week, we celebrated Earth Week on the blog. Pamela Wolff, the Director of Strategic Alliances and Industry Partnerships for the Motorcoach Council, reached out to share the environmental benefits of traveling by motorcoach.

Today she’s stopping by our blog to answer a few questions about motorcoach travel and how to go green on the road.


1)    What’s the environmental impact of traveling by motorcoach?

Motorcoach travel is the most environmentally friendly form of transportation available, the greenest way to travel in North America.  Motorcoaches currently provide over 206 passenger miles per gallon of fuel compared to 92 passenger MPG for commuter rail, 44 passenger MPG for domestic air carrier, and 27 MPG for single passenger automobiles.  Each motorcoach has the potential to take 55 cars from the road reducing congestion, saving fuel, and cutting emissions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released a report- “Getting There Greener:  The Guide to Your Lower Carbon Vacation” in which they recommended going by motorcoach–reporting that “A couple traveling by motorcoach will generate nearly 50% less global warming pollution than they would driving a hybrid car.”

2)    Can you explain the difference between passenger miles per gallon and miles per gallon?

As most folks know, miles per gallon (MPG) is the distance a vehicle travels on a gallon of fuel. Passenger miles per gallon is determined by multiplying the MPG by the average number of passengers on any given type of transportation. Passenger miles per gallon is a metric typically used to determine the energy efficiency of a vehicle or type of transportation.

3)    How many people need to be onboard a motorcoach for the MPG to be lower than one person in a hybrid car? (Let’s use the average motorcoach and a 2010 Toyota Prius as our test case.) What’s the average load factor for a motorcoach?

A Prius will get an average of 50MPG.  The average load factor for a motorcoach is 36.4 passengers; that combines tour, charter, and sightseeing buses as well as fixed route motorcoaches.  Using these figures, just 10 people on a motorcoach would still be more efficient than one person in a hybrid based on fuel consumption.  But fuel efficiency is only one part of the picture. Newer coaches using “clean diesel” offer significant air quality improvement and in some cities, the exhaust coming out of the tailpipes is cleaner than what went in!

4)    How can the average traveler incorporate motorcoaches into their travel plans?

In addition to the traditional motorcoach tour, which is a great way to vacation by the way, we are seeing more and more motorcoach companies offering line run or daily service between cities and to popular destinations. Plus, motorcoaches offer comfortable seats with much more head and leg room than the average airplane, amenities such as Satellite Radio, 110 Volt charging outlets, and a host of video and audio options, making bus travel more appealing in today’s market.  Many operators offer wireless access as well.

When sightseeing, leave your car and consider a city tour by motorcoach; most allow riders to get off and on to explore attractions and shopping at their own pace without the hassles of finding your way in a strange city or locating convenient parking.

5)    What are some of your favorite motorcoach tours around the country?

I have gone many times from western Pennsylvania to New York City or Toronto on a motorcoach.  On a number of trips, a group of us traveled together and the time just flew by.  Quite frankly though, if tourists are traveling to a destination, there is most likely a motorcoach tour you can take. And many itineraries offer transportation and lodging only– allowing you freedom to do what you want once you arrive but offering the savings that group travel is known to provide.

6)    What’s on the horizon for motorcoaches and sustainability? Any new innovations coming soon?

As far as service goes, I think we will see more and more line run service.  The hassles of air travel combined with a more “green” oriented traveler will increase demand and you will see more options for coach travel.

Technology will allow riders to remain connected while they travel and conveniences like on-board ticketing systems will become more common. Greener engines, hybrid vehicles, biodiesel all exist now but will become more and more widespread in usage.  One of the most important developments, in my opinion, will be a green certification for passenger vehicles which will clearly spell out to the consumer the efficiency of their transportation choices.


About Pamela Wolff:

Director of Strategic Alliances & Industry Partnerships, for the Motorcoach Council. The Motorcoach Council exists to educate the North American consumer as to the benefits and availability of motorcoach transportation. Consumers can find out more about green transportation at


My name: Alison Presley

Nickname: Presbo, because I'm good police.

How I earn my keep: I'm the manager of Travelocity's Travel for Good program. Visit Travel for Good to learn more about our green travel and voluntourism initiatives!

What kind of traveler am I: I'm an intrepid food explorer. I usually starve myself on the plane (not that that's too hard to do) so that the moment my toes touch foreign soil I'm ready to sample new and exciting cuisine. I like to dine everywhere from hole-in-the-wall local secrets to Michelin Guide gems. Cannelés, poi, boiled peanuts, oxtail soup, poutine--there's no stopping this adventurous palate.

Greatest travel lesson I've learned: It doesn't cost a lot of money to do good. Offsetting your carbon impact only adds a few bucks to your trip, green hotels are very affordable, and volunteering locally during your vacation is a great way to give back and learn about the culture.


Sandy Salle

Motorcoaches sounds like a wonderful alternative to touring in large, gas-guzzling buses!

Because there is no sustainable bus company in Africa similar to Motorcoaches (that I know of), many lodges and camps offer safari excursions that don’t deal with vehicles. Some of these safaris include walking and kayaking safaris, which is a great alternative to vehicle safaris that use a lot of fuel.

More similar to the Motorcoach company are the camps on the Selinda Reserve. These camps do offer game drives but all the vehicles are run on recycled vegetable oil from local fast food restaurants.

Australia Visa

Interesting information. Nice blog. I’ll be back for more of your post mate

Susan Kennedy

There is something satisfyingly old school about taking a bus tour. It can be good fun too, get a bit of a sing along on the go, etc..

Cherokee County Homes For Sale

Great information. I never really thought of traveling by motor coach as a environmentally friendly way to travel, but now I do!

Nathan Rodriguez Dentista Gratuito

Looks like a good way of travelling with less environmental impact, impressive that it can be greener than the use of hybrids.

Auto Transport Guy

Reading up on green transportation options led me to this post. And it made me realize, I am kind of in the motorcoach business, if you can count cars as our passengers. :)


Great information. I never really thought of traveling by motor coach as a environmentally friendly way to travel, but now I do!
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Fossils Rocks Minerals

How do you go about starting a coast to coast motorcoach similar to greyhound.I don’t know how to start it or who to talk to.
Someone help


Looks like a good way of travelling with less environmental impact


It’s really a wonderful place


If the choice is Motor Coach or Motorcycle… I’m sorry, the bike wins out every time. NUKE & PAVE is what I say! I’m in it for the trip – not the destination.

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