Once every few weeks, a steady stream of charter buses pours into loading areas near Ganedago Hall, Baker Flagpole and the Seneca Street Garage. One company is central to getting students back home for breaks: OurBus.
OurBus has served Cornell since 2017 and has 81 connections from campus, recently increasing the frequency of buses to New York City and Buffalo. The company also services more than two dozen other college campuses. In an interview with The Sun, OurBus co-founder Axel Hellman claimed his company is one of the leading organizers of student travel from college in the country.
Although many Cornell students associate the company with its buses, Ourbus doesn’t own a single one. The company is a division of Rally OurBus — the result of a 2021 merger with Rally, which specializes in organizing charter buses for events and venues.
Ourbus has positioned itself as a technology company that serves as a broker between bus companies and consumers. This makes it more flexible to changes in demand, but also more vulnerable to changes in supply, such as when bus companies must use their vehicle stock for other, coinciding events.
“The good thing about [the business model] is that we aren’t constrained by garage locations and driver availability. We can simply bring in bus and driver resources from another region,” Hellman said. “But also that means we’re affected by the larger market for bus services.”
Although the company’s unique business model and scale — transporting 64,000 passengers in October, according to Hellman — allows for flexibility, students have expressed mixed feelings about the quality of OurBus’s service during high volume periods.
According to an email sent by Hellman about the company’s reliability over fall break, 89 percent of the buses that departed Cornell arrived on time. However, some encountered maintenance issues and delays along the way. Rena Weintraub ’27 took an OurBus ride from Ithaca to New York City during fall break and was disappointed by her experience of delays, lack of amenities and an allegedly inexperienced driver.
“‘[My ride was] absolutely horrible. We ended up arriving over four hours late,” Weintraub said.
In addition to arriving at the destination late, the bus was also delayed picking up Weintraub.
She also mentioned that the bus’s Wi-Fi and air conditioning, two amenities that OurBus claims are on every bus departing Ithaca, were not working. More importantly, Weintraub said that the bus driver was not adhering to federal law.
“We [also] made two U-turns on the highway. One of which was over the median. Some kid on the bus had to direct the bus driver because we got lost [a few times],” Weintraub said.
However, the next day, OurBus issued Weintraub a refund and a coupon code for her next trip.
When asked about the incidents that occurred on Weintraub’s trip, Hellman said, “The operator for this particular trip, Easy Luxury Coach Corp, was immediately removed from any other work with Rally OurBus and we are holding them accountable for the failure to perform the contracted trip as promised.”
Hannah Friedman ’25 had quite a different experience traveling with OurBus. “It was easy to book my ticket. [The bus] was exactly what I expected it to be. It was affordable, and there were a bunch of empty seats,” Friedman said.
In addition to easy booking, Maia Mehring ’27 mentioned that the company’s website made it very easy to reschedule tickets despite the rescheduling fees.
Mehring also enjoyed the estimated arrival time feature on the OurBus app, but said the time was an hour off from her actual arrival time.
She then discussed her negative thoughts regarding the company’s cancellation policy. “If you have to cancel your bus, it doesn’t give you the money back, it just gives you credit towards a future trip,” Mehring said.
However, like Weintraub, Mehring’s first ride on OurBus was met with some complications.
During fall break, she took the second-to-last seat available on her bus out of Ithaca. Mehring then witnessed another ticket-bearing student be turned away from the now full bus.
“They told her she would have to find another bus. I was just thinking that it could’ve been me…They overbooked the bus,” Mehring said.
Despite these mixed opinions, OurBus remains a staple of the Cornell undergraduate travel experience.
“This type of transportation, mass exoduses from college campuses to hometowns is our specialty,” Hellman said. “The team is working around the clock to make sure everyone gets home.”
Evan Liberman ’26 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].
Dina Shlufman ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].