Saturday, April 15, 2017

Traveling By Bus-The Good, The Bad and The In-Between

I will post part two of my thoughts about returning to the Binghamton area tomorrow. But in the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what it can be like to travel across America on buses.

The Good :

1. There are people on the bus and in the station who will be kind to you and look out for your safety. In Kansas City, I lost my re-boarding pass and the new driver had a real attitude about it. Several of the other passengers who I had ridden with all the way from Las Vegas vouched for me, and that was enough to convince the driver I was supposed to get back on the bus.

2. Some bus stations are well staffed and in excellent condition. The station in Kansas City is well maintained, well staffed and has reasonably priced, decent tasting food.

3. The buses themselves have been considerably upgraded over what they were like just a few years ago. Most of them have wi-fi access that's fairly reliable. Most of them have electrical outlets to charge devices. Some of them even have actual toilets that flush as opposed to what are essentially portable toilets in a permanent installation.

The Bad:

1. There is a serious issue with communication (or lack thereof) between drivers and stations.  You are best off if you handle as much of the communications as you can on your own. I really mean that. Call the station you're scheduled to make a transfer at to see if you are on schedule or not.  If you have a serious problem, call the station that is your next stop. If nothing else, you at least can honestly say you reported the situation.
2. Some bus stations are dangerous places, or in very poor condition, or located in not so nice areas. May whatever God or Gods you believe in show mercy and not land you in a station that has all three issues going on. Indianapolis, I'm looking at you. Your station is in a location where I didn't even feel it safe enough to cross the street to get a hamburger. I had plenty of time to do so, and I hate to pass up any chance at getting food from White Castle, but one look at the neighborhood convinced me to stay in the actual terminal.

This was especially shocking as the station is just a few minutes away from Lucas Oil Stadium.

3. Those buses that haven't been replaced or refitted are in very bad condition.

The In-Between:

1. Some drivers are very good, some are very bad and some are just average.

2. Fares can vary quite a bit depending on the day of the week. Also, fares go up a lot over holiday weekends. You can find some really good bargains but sometimes you will overpay by a large amount.

Look, I get it. Inter-city bus travel is the last choice anyone wants to make. There's probably not much of a profit to be made, although the fact that Greyhound is still in business attests to the fact that enough of a profit to remain operational is there. The entire system is still designed, in many ways, to operate the way it did thirty years ago. That's not good, but there doesn't seem to be much of an incentive to change things.

It is what it is.

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