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Another One Rides the Bus
Ed Ghostal

...and another gets on,
and another gets on,
another one rides the bus.
Hey, he's going gonna sit by you,
another one rides the bus!
"Another One Rides the Bus"
- Weird Al Yankovich

Prior to 9/11, the airports were already little outposts of Bulgaria and traveler satisfaction wasn't "Job One." Now its worse. Many freedom-oriented people are eschewing the Eastern Bloc experience of commercial air travel. One alternative to air travel is the Greyhound Bus.

The Good News

While Greyhound has a policy of not permitting firearms or ammunition to be transported on their buses (a policy that is even more restrictive than the airlines, who permit firearms to be transported as checked baggage), it did not appear that they were checking this too strenuously.

While I've heard accounts of screening bus travelers, I did not observe this happening at any of the major cities on my trip, and it certainly did not occur in any of the small town stops. I did not transport any firearms on this trip, but I purposely carried a significant quantity of ferrous metal in my carry on bags, and I was not searched.

I also never had to present any identification on my trip. While I paid in advance with a credit card, I merely presented the print off from my on line ticket purchase to the ticket clerk. I also observed people paying with cash not being asked to show ID. Greyhound's website is silent on the matter of presenting identification except when purchasing tickets for another party in a different city, and they even make a provision for the use of a password.

The Bad News

Well, it is the bus. I was hoping that Greyhound would have taken advantage of current events in order to draw customers away from the airlines. Unfortunately, it appears that the bus lines have done little to improve services since I last regularly used their services in the early 1980s.

Here's a list of my gripes with my recent bus trip:

  • Sub-contracting – Greyhound contracts out some of their bus routes to other companies. So I may or may not have gotten an accurate picture of the Greyhound travel experience on my recent trip.
  • Surly or irritable drivers – Unlike airline passengers, bus passengers have regular contact with the driver. Two of the four drivers on my trip had my fellow passengers griping among themselves.
  • Crowded – For most of the trip, there wasn't an empty seat on the bus. On one leg of the trip, there were people laying in aisles. Purchasing a ticket, even one purchased weeks in advance, doesn't guarantee a seat.
  • Cramped – The seat rows were not spaced very far apart, and my knees were firmly planted in the back of the seat in the preceding row. There was a hubbub a few years ago about lack of legroom on airlines contributing to Deep Vein Thrombosis. It is odd that the bus lines escaped this criticism given the duration of many bus trips.
  • Noisy Kids – The proverbial noisy kids on the airplane are on order of magnitude worse on a long bus trip. I don't blame the kids, because no sane individual can expect kids to sit quietly for 25 consecutive hours.
  • SLOW – You're probably thinking to yourself, "well of course bus travel is slow." But you don't get an appreciation for how slow it actually is until you've made your umpteenth stop at an empty "limited service stop" at 3 a.m., or driving through residential neighborhoods in Eastern Kansas so the bus can avoid paying tolls on the Kansas Turnpike. I have examined several of Greyhound's routes, and it appears that the average speed of the bus is around 42 m.p.h. Keep in mind an earnest automobile driver averages at least 60 m.p.h. Also be aware that Greyhound doesn't guarantee arrival or departure time.

If you do decide to take the bus, here are some things you might want to place in your carry-on baggage:

  • Reading material
  • An inflatable travel pillow
  • A small blanket
  • Tape/CD/MP3 player with noise canceling headphones.
  • Canteen or water bottle
  • Food - Although the bus stops occasionally for food, you may not care for where the bus stops for food or to wait in line with all your fellow passengers at some convenience store.
  • Dramamine - This over the counter pharmaceutical seems to be tailor made for bus travel. Dramamine's chief use is countering the effects of motion sickness. It's side effect of producing profound drowsiness is also helpful.

I recommend driving over taking the bus. While this advice may sound flippant, it should not be dismissed. If you don't have a car, look into renting one. Unlimited mileage rentals are comparable in cost to airline tickets. One way rentals are even available, although it usually costs an additional $50 for this convenience.

While the notion of leaving the driving to someone else (Greyhound's motto) is appealing, keep in mind that the "someone else" is probably going to be making a lot of stops and taking roundabout routes. While you can sleep on the bus while traveling to your destination, it is difficult to get a restful night's sleep. I found that it is entirely possible to drive, get a decent night's sleep, and still beat the bus.


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