Saturday, April 05, 2008

Travel by bus: save hundreds of dollars, the environment, and your sanity!

I am posting this while riding a bus.

No, not writing it while on a bus and posting it later-- there is wi-fi on this bus, so I am hitting "Publish Post" in the middle of the Jersey Turnpike somewhere in the vicinity of Newark. (And with my laptop plugged into the power outlet on the seat in front of me, too.) It is pretty darn cool, and just reinforces for me all the benefits of traveling by bus rather than driving whenever possible...

  • Cheaper. I haven't run the numbers for all common bus routes, but DC to NYC (which I do a couple times a year to visit relatives) is about 450 miles round-trip. On gas alone that's around $50, not to mention about $40 worth of tolls, so $90ish out of pocket-- and if you use the IRS mileage rate to factor in wear-and-tear on the car, the real cost is over $250. Even the priciest round-trip tickets for this route are about $50 per person, and the BoltBus (which I'm riding now) and MegaBus (starting soon; I took this between Chicago and Milwaukee a few times) have tickets starting at $1 (!) depending on how early you buy. So taking the bus can save you over $200 if you're driving alone, and is still a good deal even for a packed car of people. The math may work out differently for your trip, but I'd bet that for a lot of routes you'll find similar results.
  • More relaxing. I hate driving. It stresses me out and makes me nervous. I don't enjoy it emotionally or physically-- both the driving position and the stress leaves me sore and tense by the end of a multi-hour drive. So taking a bus is a no-brainer for me whenever feasible. But even if you're less anti-driving than me, it's still hard to beat kicking back on a bus and being chauffered to your destination. You have the ability to read, do work, take a nap, eat and drink, or nearly anything else your heart desires (car passengers can already do that, of course, but it's a bonus for the would-be driver.)
  • Better for the environment. Fifteen gallons of gas for the DC-NYC roundtrip, versus 45 or so for the bus split among forty or fifty passengers.
  • And now... better features! Okay, this is brand-new and not available everywhere, but I certainly can't get wi-fi access while driving up in the car!
Obviously there are some downsides to taking the bus. It can be challenging and/or time-consuming to get from the bus stop to your final destination, especially if you have a lot of luggage to haul. And nobody likes a bus bathroom. (Although rest-stop bathrooms aren't much better!) But if you can work it out, the bus is a really great alternative.


Betsy Teutsch said...

I just wrote about the super cheap bus deals, not that the new market is well-established. In Philly, they have cleverly parked themselves next to 30th street station (Amtrak), making themselves an alternative to the train, not just Greyhound.

Anonymous said...

wow! Wi-fi on the bus...that IS enlightened.

My daily walking friend & I were just contemplating a drive she has to make to a conference in a nearby city, which she's not looking forward to. I suggested she take the bus. She cringed.

We're not even sure Greyhound still runs between Phoenix & Tucson, and even if it does...once you arrive at the bus station in the middle of a dangerous slum, then what? There are no car rentals nearby. Tucson isn't exactly overrun with taxicabs, nor does it have viable public transport. How do you get to where you need to go (safely!), and once you've rented a car or hired a taxi, wouldn't the cost and hassle factor be just as much as making the two-hour drive in your RAV-4?

Anonymous said...

I usually start out great at the beginning of the trip. I have my water, and all my healthy snacks. But slowly I sink. the longer the trip, the more treats I need. And if I get stuck at an airport, for get it! Nachos and margaritas!