Live Green and Earn Points


7 Reasons to Ride the Bus This Summer

By Joe Laur |
Buses, the airplane’s seedier older cousin, have a reputation for being slow, dirty, nasty and uncomfortable. But that's starting to change.

I hate getting on planes. Security, charges for bags, getting there 90 minutes ahead of time, and of course the huge amounts of fossil fuels used and waste CO2 each trip produces. But flying is the way to go in a time crunched, cost conscious frequent flyer world, right? Well maybe not. It’s time to take a look at the bus.

Buses, the airplane’s seedier older cousin, have a reputation for being slow, dirty, nasty and uncomfortable. But, hey, we can all change, right? Buses are upgrading, adding routes, becoming more comfortable and cheaper. And sharing a ride with 30 or 50 other folks spreads the fuel usage and CO2 waste over a greater number of bodies. Here are seven good reasons to take the bus, from our friends at Wisebread.

C:\Documents and Settings\User\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\PY59TQ3K\MP900342031[1].jpg Cost. We all know about discount airlines and promotional fares, but they hardly touch bus fares. The “China Town” buses operate between Boston, Philly, NYC and DC with fares under $20 one way. Both China Town and BoltBus have introduced fares as low as a dollar on some routes. And good old Greyhound has fares as low as $13-34 each way.

C:\Documents and Settings\User\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\A0GZ075A\MP900145617[1].jpgExpanded Range. The in-town busses are already a cheap green way to get around, but bus companies are expanding routes up and down the coasts, across the Midwest, and even across the country. Check out Gotobus and Megabus. And Greyhound still says it will take you anywhere in the US for $99.

C:\Documents and Settings\User\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\A0GZ075A\MP900443741[1].jpgSave Time. I know the bus has a reputation for being as slow as a, well, bus. 55 mph is slower than a few hundred mph up in the air. But start adding up arrival times, layovers and connections, going through out of the way hubs, and driving out to the airport and it may not be as much time saving as you think, especially on regional routes. And the bus is rarely delayed due to weather.

1More Reliable. Buses drive through every kind of weather, kind of like the US Mail. Buses almost always depart on time, drive through all sorts of conditions and are rarely delayed. Bus technology is durable and reliable.

Much Greener. Taking the bus for long distances is consistently the lowest emissions of all public transit methods. From New York to San Francisco, the bus will emit about 520 lbs of CO2. A plane 5-6 times that, per person. In addition, airplanes emit other harmful materials directly into the upper atmosphere. The damage to the atmosphere done by flying is roughly twice that of driving the same number of miles in a car. And a full bus is much gentler on the environment than a flight of the same distance, even better than driving yourself.

C:\Documents and Settings\User\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\PY59TQ3K\MP900442278[1].jpgGreater Comfort and Wi-Fi. As airlines cut comfort and service to save costs, some bus lines are adding comfort and features. BoltBus offers free Wi-Fi on all its routes. And I’ve found steerage in the plane to be much more cramped than the average bus seat. I recently took the bus from Duluth to Milwaukee a few years back, and it was a delightful smooth ride through the Wisconsin landscape. Good time, with the emphasis on the word good.

Flexibility. Most bus lines are flexible about ticketing. Greyhound allows you to use a ticket for the reserved route on any day or time for which there is availability, up to a year after the original departure C:\Documents and Settings\User\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\PY59TQ3K\MP900402588[1].jpgdate. Other companies, like Megabus, allow you to change your reservation with 24 hours advance notice and only a $1 service charge.

So consider the bus as a cheaper, greener alternative to flying. With the environmental impact of planes, security and scheduling hassles, and increasing prices and safety concerns, why not give this old travel standby another look?

Photo: Adam E Moreira

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  • Ruth C. 2 years ago
    These stories always focus on the coasts.
  • Tom B. 5 years ago
    1. The bus (or most any conventional ground transport) will be more fuel and environmentally efficient than flying because ground transport does not have to overcome the force of gravity with lift.Overcoming force takes energy, and energy in this case is developed through the burning of AvGas in a turbine.

    2. Air transport is always safer than these low-cost bus routes by any measure - passenger miles traveled, passenger trips taken, number of bus miles vs number of plane miles, or number of bus trips versus number of flights.

    Any way you look at it, buses are better for the environment and poorer for your chances at arriving at your destination intact. Do I think that is an overriding concern? Not sure.

    3. Buses would still win for most trips under 250 miles or so as long as the two ends of the trips were close to the bus depots. If the bus depot is more than 10 or 15 miles away from your final destination, all bets are off as far as which is better - plane or bus. As with most things in transportation and shipping, it's the "last mile" that kills you.

    4. Anything that would require an overnight stay in travelling versus getting there in one day via aircraft changes the math. The extra food and hotel add enough of a cost and environmental impact to at least reconsider the trip methodology.

    I am putting this out there as the counterbalance to "buses are wonderful all the time." Like with most things, there are trade-offs and most of your articles would be much more convincing if they portrayed a more accurate picture. In most cases, they would still win the argument. And if they didn't win the argument, you would realize that it wasn't a great idea to begin with.

    Buses as alternatives to aircraft can be a great idea in the right circumstance, BTW.
  • MARQUISE J. 5 years ago