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.
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.
Expanded 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.
Save 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.
More 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.
Greater 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 date. 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