Jefferson Lines

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Founded 1919
Headquarters Minneapolis, Minnesota
Service area North Central United States
Service type Intercity coach service
Chief executive Steve Woelfel

Jefferson Lines (JL or JLI) is a regional intercity bus company operating in the United States. Today, the Jefferson Lines system extends from Grand Forks, North Dakota, south to Wichita Falls, Texas.[1]


The company is operated by Jefferson Partners L.P., located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jefferson Partners also operates the Jefferson Tours charter bus service for tours and other group services. The company is the second-largest bus company in the US that operates from fixed stations.[2]Founded in 1919 during the early days of motorcoach travel,[3] the company serves 13 states as of 2014:[1] The company's name originates in the Jefferson Highway, a north-south route in the early National Auto Trail system which once ran from Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, south to New Orleans, Louisiana. The service to Winnipeg was cut back to Grand Forks, North Dakota, on October 7, 2010,[4] but was reinstated on August 16, 2017. By 1990, the company was believed to be the second-largest intercity bus company in the country after Continental Trailways was bought by Greyhound Lines.[5] Intercity bus lines underwent many changes in the 2000s decade after Greyhound Lines declined into bankruptcy and subsequently shed off many bus routes. Jefferson Lines has taken over operation of many former Greyhound routes and has been able to improve ridership significantly on some of them.


According to the company website, Jefferson Lines has 265 employees including roughly 150 drivers. Jefferson Lines is a member of the American Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association, and National Tour Association.[6] The company is reported to have over 100 buses in its fleet.[2]



The company's president and CEO is Charlie Zelle. He had been an investment banker in New York City until returning to Minnesota in 1987 to take over the company from his late father, Louie. Due to poor real-estate investments, such as in the St. Anthony Main project in Minneapolis, the company was in danger of foundering, but Zelle helped restructure the company under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1989 and 1990.[5] The company was founded by Zelle's grandfather—Charlie Zelle marks the third generation of his family to work at Jefferson Lines. He owned 60% of the company as of 2010, with the remaining 40% owned by business partner Fred Kaiser of Texas.[2] As of 2011, Charlie Zelle was also chairman of the board of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Bus Routes : Jefferson Lines". Jefferson Lines. Retrieved June 7, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Neal St. Anthony (June 28, 2010). "Jefferson Lines: Flying low". Star-Tribune. Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  3. ^ Neal St. Anthony (November 3, 2000). "Once-shaky Jefferson Lines putting rough road behind it". Star-Tribune. Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  4. ^ Barry Burns (September 30, 2010). "Bus Line Puts The Brakes On Grand Forks to Wpg Run". CJOB. Corus Entertainment. 
  5. ^ a b "Jefferson Lines, Jefferson Tours emerge from Chapter 11 protection". Star Tribune. July 17, 1990. Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Bus History : Jefferson Lines". Jefferson Lines. Retrieved June 7, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Executive Committee and Board of Directors". Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on April 28, 2011. Retrieved April 18, 2011. 

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