Is Greyhound leaving passengers out in the cold?

Eugene Sergeev /
Eugene Sergeev /
The temperature outside the Des Moines Greyhound bus terminal on a February morning fell to a dangerously frigid 17 degrees below zero. But the bus driver who dropped off Ankur Singh and 10 other passengers so that they could wait for a connecting motorcoach, knowing that it would be an hour before the terminal would open, didn’t seem to care.

“He had absolutely no sympathy at all,” says Singh, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Bloomington, Ill. “He was completely apathetic.”

Singh’s experience offers a glimpse into a corner of the travel industry that receives practically no coverage or concern from the travel media: the conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of people who travel by bus.

After Singh’s motorcoach, which originated in Minneapolis, left them at the station, the passengers huddled together outside the closed building. Singh opened his luggage and added layer upon layer of clothes in an effort to keep warm.

“The wait was awful,” he says. “All we could do was huddle around for warmth. I remember one woman started shaking and her face turned really red. One passenger gave her his jacket. That act definitely restored my faith in humanity after being so poorly treated by Greyhound.”

Greyhound denies that it mistreated Singh or the other passengers.

For starters, says Maureen Richmond, a company spokeswoman, Greyhound hasn’t served Des Moines since last August. Singh was traveling on a so-called “interline” carrier — the bus equivalent of a codeshare flight. So technically, it wasn’t Greyhound that abandoned him and the other passengers to the elements.

“Greyhound terminals and agencies are open when buses are scheduled to arrive or depart,” she said, adding, “We will work with the interline carriers to help ensure that their hours are consistent with the scheduled arrivals and departures.”

Singh has been waiting a while to hear that. In February, he launched a petition on asking Greyhound to keep its terminals open, and this policy shift seems to address the loophole. It’s one that has existed for a while now, and it’s one that I should have exposed years ago.

Alex Slover told me about how he was locked out of a Greyhound station for nearly two hours during a recent snowstorm in Binghamton, N.Y. “There was a bus idling in the parking lot,” remembers Slover, who at the time was a college student. “I tried to go in there to stay warm, but someone came over and told me to get out, saying they were trying to keep the bus from freezing or something, and that I couldn’t be in there.”

Christine Pearl remembers a stopover in Buffalo during Thanksgiving when she was shut out of the station late one evening after her connecting bus was delayed. “The person who closed the bus station didn’t even tell us how late the bus would be, so we were just left standing outside wondering when the bus would show up,” she recalls. “It was miserably cold and snowing. The snow actually leaked through my backpack and got some of my textbooks wet.”

After half an hour, her bus arrived. Pearl, a first-year law student, sent a complaint to Greyhound but never heard back.

Greyhound says that passengers shouldn’t have to wait outside its terminals and is in contact with Singh and other passengers who have been denied access to their stations, to “better understand the situation and offer assistance,” says spokeswoman Richmond.

“The safety and security of all motorcoach passengers is a priority for us.”

If stories like these are infuriating to travelers, they should be embarrassing to consumer advocates. Of course, no one should be left outside a bus terminal, regardless of who’s operating the motorcoach. (The codeshare excuse doesn’t fly with airlines; why should it with a bus?)

But travel journalists like me spill barrels of ink calling attention to the plight of airline passengers. We write about every little fee and frequent-flier offer, no matter how inconsequential, while ignoring the fate of the passengers who are freezing outside a decidedly less glamorous bus terminal.

Singh is hopeful that for now, at least, this problem has been fixed.

His petition collected nearly 90,000 signatures, and he says that he’s reassured by Greyhound’s promises that it won’t lock any more passengers out of its terminals, even if they are on an interline bus.

Even so, he warns, when traveling by bus, “always be prepared for the unexpected.”

To say the least. When airline codeshares get confused, it can lead to lost luggage or a missed connection. But this “interlining” story could have had much more serious consequences. Thank goodness it didn’t.

Are motorcoach passengers treated like second-class citizens?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • technomage1

    Bus travel in the US is by nature a “second class” form of travel. Hardly anyone who can afford to fly, especially long distances, is going to chose to get on a bus for 2 days when they could fly there in a few hours. Having said that, no one should be exposed to dangerous weather conditions like Mr. Singh described. And busses, like megabus, are great for shorter distances. I took it up to dc from where I live, a 3 hour trip for only $2.50 round trip.

    Probably the best busses in the world (that I’ve ever been on, anyway) were in South Korea. The airport transfer buses there rock. Full recliners, tons of legroom, tv on board, etc. Put those on busses in the roads in the US and I’ll start to think about longer trips.

  • cozmiccowgirl

    Our mass transit in the US has the reputation of being for those who cannot drive. If we had decent, high class, reliable mass transit, it might lose that reputation. When I was a kid, Greyhound was advertised all over TV as the best way to see America. The buses were high-quality, and appealed to a higher socio-economic level of people. Now, buses are just a way for poor people to be used and abused as they go to visit grandma.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I traveled quite a bit by Greyhound, on both short and overnight trips, when I was in my teens. I’ve also traveled by bus once a year or so over the past decade, taking 4 – 6 hour trips from major cities on the East Coast. Based on my observations of my fellow passengers then and now, I know exactly why those terminals weren’t open. Municipal authorities have trouble with vagrants, panhandlers and thieves at bus shelters and terminals, so add those concerns to the mix.

    It would be humane to open them up in especially foul weather, but that would require security to be present. That would, in turn, drive up prices for the tickets. I think that would be an adequate trade-off, but then again, I have the resources to pay more for a ticket.

  • Janniebabe

    This has been going on for years! My daughter used to take the bus from our house on a 10 hour trip back to college, and one year when she was going home from Christmas break the same thing happened. Fortunately she had received a hat and mittens from her grandma for Christmas – (these kids never go prepared, she does NOW), and when she called me from college later she said they saved her hands and ears because they waited outside in 0 degree weather for at least 2 hours. The bus stop was closed and had been for some time. She was lucky – there was an older couple that got dropped with her and they found a corner and huddled together for warmth. What if she had been alone? Who would have thought a bus company would think this kind of behavior was okay to do? Glad something is being done.

  • Theresa Clark

    Greyhound terminals are not always open when buses depart or arrive. The small terminal in Beaumont TX has been closed more often than opened on the few times I took a bus to Houston. People are always left to wait outside and besides the weather, I would not feel at all safe waiting outside a Greyhound terminal. I can’t speak for all terminals, but all of the ones I have been through are always in shady parts of town. In fact one in Louisiana closed due to the crime in the area, only to be relocated to a quick stop on the interstate, in an even worse area. Greyhound needs to have a little more concern for their passengers.

  • mbods

    Wow, thanks for calling this horrendous treatment of customers, by Greyhound, to our attention Chris. It will definitely make me think twice about taking the bus!

  • technomage1

    I get where you’re coming from, but to me making sure your customers don’t freeze to death or suffer frostbite, etc should be in the cost of the ticket. If that means its more expensive, then that just has to happen. It’s got to be a non negotiable part of the ticket pricing model.

  • $16635417

    Looks like the new policy has been implemented. Looking up a random date from Minneapolis to Bloomington, IL (assuming this was the route), the layover in Des Moines is from 4:10AM to 8:55AM. Then, checking station hours on their website, Des Moines is open from 3:45AM until 11:59PM.

  • Tookish

    Years ago, I got dropped off down by the Kaw River in Topeka, Kansas at 2:00 am. Not a safe place for a woman alone. At least the pay phone worked. This has been a problem for many years.

  • TonyA_says

    According to a recent article by the Des Moines Register, the Greyhound Bus Terminal operations was turned over to Jefferson Lines last August. And then, just recently, Greyhound put the property up for sale, leaving Jefferson (and Burlington Trailways) scrambling to find a new bus terminal.

    So Mr. Singh can get all the signatures he wants but unless some money is thrown in, then how do you expect to get anything solved? In my opinion, this is a community issue that the State and local government should solve. In my city, Stamford, Connecticut, we have the Stamford Transportation Center right on the I-95 highway. This small complex serves Amtrak, Metro North (Grand Central NYC to New Haven) and some local trains. It also has a bus depot for CT Transit. Greyhound and Peter Pan also uses it as a terminal. The transportation center also has taxi stands and parking. Most hotels and office buildings provide shuttle service to and from this transport hub.

    Today, most bus companies pick up from the curb and use sidewalks as waiting areas. In fact take a look at Megabus’ Des Moine info:

    The Megabus stop in Des Moines will be moving to the bus ramp in the parking garage on the corner of Center St and 7th St on February 27th.
    The stop at Walnut St and 4th St will be discontinued at that time.

    Here’s a link with the old bus stop (frozen in winter)

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    The current horrendous mess that is flying around America could be capitalized on by a bus company and it’s a shame nobody’s got the deep pockets to start an upscale bus line. I think there would be lots of customers who would make a 6-8 hour trip on a comfortable, clean bus that had decent terminals in safe areas. It would be a viable option to being herded around an airport and stuffed into a coach seat with no food. But I suppose it would take billions of dollars to set it up to properly compete with flying.

  • William_Leeper

    Perhaps I am just not the norm, but I have taken the bus on trips before just so I can see the scenery. It’s not because I can’t afford to fly, simply because some parts of our country are absolutely beautiful and a person cannot see it from the air. Here where we are, Greyhound doesn’t service our area, we are forced to take Jefferson Lines to Kansas City or Shreveport and then transfer to Greyhound. The interline carriers are definitely not up to the standards of Greyhound.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey Jeanne, it can’t be that bad in Des Moines, can it?

    Here’s a pic I took on Christmas Day (2012) from inside a bus (in Sapporo, Japan). I guess these folks were waiting for a ride.

  • MarkKelling

    There are many Greyhound stops that simply don’t have terminals. Most used to, but no more due to the decline in ridership over the years. So what about those? Are we going to require Greyhound to stop only at locations that have terminals? Part of the benefit of traveling by bus is that there are multiple stops available that can’t be reached through most other travel options.

    Being prepared for unexpected weather conditions is part of traveling no matter which option you choose. Getting dumped at a stop where you will be exposed to the elements is part of bus travel. It’s no worse that getting stuck on a plane on the tarmac for multiple hours when a blizzard moves in and the plane can’t take off and there are no gates to return to. Which is worse? You probably won’t die from exposure if you are on a plane. Bathrooms can become an issue in either situation.

    So, what could Greyhound have done better for the OP and other travelers caught in a similar situation? If there is a terminal at the stop, have it open. If the arrival at off hours is an issue for the company, change the schedule so the busses arrive during regular hours. Or have someone at the door to let in only those with a ticket. Blaming it on another bus company that just happens to share the facility is not right. It’s not like Greyhound didn’t know the bus would be arriving at that time.

    Megabus recently started service from Houston Tx. Their “terminal” is a tent in a parking lot with no permanent structures at all. But that is how they can sell tickets for less than $5 to most of their destinations. If they were required to have an actual terminal, there would be no $5 fares.

  • Joe Farrell

    You get what you pay for. Pay $75 to travel 2000 miles and get $75 worth of service. Is it really that hard to understand?

  • TonyA_says

    You’ve got the right! Notice how greyhound is selling their Des Moines old terminal for a mere $650k. Looks like they are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Pretty soon there will be no terminals everywhere, just sidewalk stops. A race to the bottom, nothing else.

  • MarkKelling

    The assumption that bus is less costly than flying and is only for the poorer travelers is not always true.

    I just looked at one-way travel from Houston to NYC on 05/11 (a purely random date). Greyhound’s lowest cost ticket was $107 and takes almost 2 full days on the bus. Southwest charges $115 and takes 3 hours. When you factor in all the meals you have to either pack or buy along the way and arriving after 2 days without sleep or bathing, which one is the better option?

    On the other hand, going one-way from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Key West on the same day is $35 on Greyhound but $170 on United.

    So it seems that for shorter distances that you could probably drive yourself, the bus wins.

  • Christopher Elliott

    For many travelers, $75 is a lot of money.

  • DavidYoung2

    I think the same can be said for airline passengers. First/business, comfy seats, decent food, free checked bags, first to board, pillows and blankets. Coach – cramped, uncomfortable, peanuts at best. Cattle class better describes the economy experience.
    Now, I’m observing and not complaining. Those who pay more SHOULD get superior service and amenities. That said, everybody should be entitled to ‘safe’ and leaving people in the cold a -17 is just plain inhumane.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Chris –

    It’s so coincidental you’re talking about Greyhound right now because I’ve only recently learned just how bad they are as a company.

    As an experiment, I went through the motions of getting my husband a ticket to travel from Benson, AZ, to the city in Alabama where his mother lives. It was so fraught with problems, I had to abandon buying the ticket, altogether.

    1. If buying a ticket, the credit card MUST be in the name of the traveler. You can buy a “gift fare” but it’s with an $18 fee. Also, there’s no guarantee you can even get the gift fare because of Greyhound’s arbitrary decision-making with regard to that. The site kept telling me my card was invalid for the fare.

    2. If you can’t use your card on the site (and again, that’s seems to be arbitrary), then you can call in. It took me four hours to finally get through (I kept it on speaker phone as I went about my day – it’s their nickel paying for that toll-free number, after all) and when I did, the person who answered the phone spoke horrible English and understood even less. I then asked for a supervisor who was incredibly rude and sarcastic. If this is the supervisor, I can see why they have customer service issues. The supervisor suggested I go to my local terminal, 103 miles away, one way, to get the ticket. When I told her that was really not feasible, she just laughed and said, “Well, i guess you don’t go Greyhound.”

    I attempted to talk to Greyhound about their issues. It seems to me their ridership is down because they simply couldn’t care less about customer service. Clean that up and my guess is the rest will follow. The reaction I got from their marketing director (the only person for whom I could find a number and would answer their phone with anything more than, “We don’t answer our phones”) was one of disdain for ME pointing this out to them. I was doing an article about the viability of Greyhound as the “Anti-airline” service. They DO have good fares and they get you where you need to go, but you’re treated like dirt by the company. Given the rudeness of their marketing director, their supervisors and their front-line CSRs, I now know why Greyhound is so awful. I’m looking at a cross-country trip this fall and I’m thinking I’ll go Amtrak. The people there are MUCH nicer.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Walhon, when I was looking at doing an article about Greyhound for my site, that’s one of the reasons I was going to use – when you’re on a plane, you can’t see anything but clouds. When you’re in a bus, you see all sorts of great things you wouldn’t see otherwise.

    I believe it’s when you get out of the fast lane you really start to notice what’s around you.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    And a cross country trip on Greyhound is appreciably more than $75. If you look up the fare for Los Angeles to Philadelphia (round-trip) is $258.00, advanced purchase, $511.00 web fare only and $538.00 regular. For a one-way trip, it’s $129.00, $255.00 and $269.00, respectively.

    That sounds like a lot more than $75 and, like Chris said, for some people, even $75 is a lot of money.

  • TonyA_says

    I also checked the Jefferson Lines bus schedule. They operate the bus and the terminal that the OP took. Bus 805 is scheduled to arrive Des Moines at 415AM. The Des Moines station is supposed to be open M-Su: 03:45 AM – 11:59 PM and Hol: 03:45 AM – 11:59 PM

    I can’t understand how Greyhound is leaving him in the cold. The station was scheduled to be open at 345AM. Was the bus driver possible mistaken to tell him it opened at 5AM?

    And let’s supposed it was closed. Couldn’t he walk across the street and wait at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center and stay warm there?,1107+Keosauqua+Way,+Des+Moines,+IA+50309&gl=us&ei=cC5PUfOcAuPn0gGbwYCwDA&ved=0CDEQ8gEwAA

  • David Cochran

    you have written about similar plight on airlines; a plan is directed to a different airport due to weather or whatever. Thw terminals closed and everybody has to stay on the plane for 8 hours.

  • William_Leeper

    I glad someone else sees it the way I do. 90% of the time I drive. I have actually driven 23 hours to a destination so I could see what was along the way! But I take the bus too. It all depends on whether I want to be lazy and how far I am going. There are times when the bus is actually cheaper than the gas to drive myself.

  • LFH0

    The Des Moines station opening at 3:45 a.m. is a new development instituted by Jefferson Lines in response to this news story. Previously, Jefferson Lines (and Burlington Trailways) did not open their station until 5:00 a.m., thereby leaving Jefferson Lines passengers in the cold.

  • LFH0

    While many rural bus stops have long been pick-ups from a sidewalk downtown, perhaps in front of a commission agent’s business, the bus stops which remain in service today are in middle-size and large cities, most of which have stations. The pick-up and discharge of passengers in middle-size and large cities on a sidewalk is a relatively new phenomena, generally restricted only to Megabus and BoltBus. But most bus companies, including Greyhound Lines, the Trailways affiliates, and independent bus companies, all continue to use traditional bus stations.

    But in using their stations, bus companies are treated differently from other common carriers. I can only think of a single modern airport—John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, N.Y.—where the passenger station is owned and operated by an individual carrier (are there others?). Virtually all airports are provided by government, funded by taxes and passenger facility charges. On the bus side, there are a handful (albeit growing number) of stations which have been built by the government, but by-and-large, the bus companies arrange for their own stations. Is this fair? Should it be rectified? How? I think the answer to these questions is largely a function of individual political belief, and given the very small market share of people using intercity buses in the United States (about 2 percent of all intercity travel in the United States, compared to about 90 percent in Mexico), and given that few people romanticize about intercity buses as they do for intercity trains, I would not expect this to be an important political question in any general sense. In other words, nothing will be done.

  • LFH0

    I disagree. Greyhound Lines is a large monolithic company which has given up on choice riders. It provides nearly uniformly poor service. On the other hand, the small bus companies are closer to the ground, and know what to do to treat their customers well and stay in business. They’re not perfect, but overall when I have a choice between (1) Greyhound Lines, and (2) any other bus company, almost always I will choose (2).

  • LFH0

    I believe that the thinking at Greyhound Lines is that they need not have any concern for their passengers. The company gave up on choice riders long ago (I certainly remember the old jingle, “Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us”). Today nearly all the passengers carried by Greyhound Lines have no choice, largely for perceived or actual economic reasons. In other words, Greyhound Lines can treat is customers as poorly as it cares, and it doesn’t mater because there’s no competition on most routes, and the abused will simply come back for more.

  • LFH0

    There are a handful of upscale bus lines, including luxury services such as Limoliner, Hampton Jitney, RedCoach, and even the exemplary services offered by Concord Coach Lines. But by and large Greyhound Lines has tarnished the perception of the industry, and most bus riders are simply looking for cheap, with people willing to pay more not wanting to associate themselves with the cheap bus travelers. In fact, the aforementioned luxury bus companies eschew Greyhound Lines connections and terminals for that very reason. It’s a cultural thing. In Mexico, where bus travel is well-accepted by all, there are several luxury bus lines criss-crossing the country, including such lines as ETN, Turistar, ADO Platino, Ave, Tufesa, but we in the United States simply do not have the social environment which would allow such luxurious travel here.

  • technomage1

    If I wasn’t 6′ tall I’d probably be more willing to spend time that way. But if it comes down to 2 hours crammed into a tiny seat for $200 or 19 hours crammed into a tiny seat for $75 (actual airline/greyhound pricing to my hometown) Ill pay the extra money.

    To each their own, though. I can definitely see your point.

  • LFH0

    While I am in agreement with most, I must disagree about holding connections in Dallas. This is a large hub, which many arrivals from all over. To hold a bus for a single connection here would not only inconvenience all those other arrivals, but it would also mess up further onward connections from that held bus. Airlines would not hold their connections for a single late arrival (and three hours late no less).

    In years past there were many more schedules, and so a three hour delay would simply mean having to board the next connecting bus, which likely would depart before long. Now, with many fewer schedules being operated, the consequences of a missed connection are substantial.

  • Christopher Elliott

    The tour bus we used in Italy a few years ago was totally luxurious. It even had its own espresso maker.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Would you be so good as to cut and paste in reply to this as to where I said “hold a connection”, please? (And even if I had said that, I didn’t say for ONE person. However, there were about 40 to 50 people who needed that connection, not one.)

  • TonyA_says

    Actually it might be an error.

    If you go to Greyhound’s website they say it’s open at 345AM.

    But Greyhound specifically states the address as:
    Des Moines, IA 50309

    If you go to Burlington Trailway’s website, they say the station opens at 5AM.

    So it’s possible this station really opens at 5AM.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Good analysis of the current situation.

    When I ride buses and trains, the occupancy rates are absolutely dismal, unless I pony up and pay to get on the Acela Express (think Boston area to DC, for those of you unfamiliar with that route), which is pretty full. Only a small segment of the population is being served by regional carriers. Small segment of the population = no political clout. I agree, nothing will be done.

  • $16635417

    Yeah…I was looking at the map earlier. Honestly, I would have thought to myself what would I do for four plus hours in Des Moines at that time of day. Probably would have planned enough cash to take a cab to a 24 hour restaurant and had some breakfast.

    I have done something similar, arriving somewhere at 6AM and not wanting the person picking me up to be overly inconvenienced at that time of day. (It was still another two hours by car to where I was going.) I took a cab to a nearby truck stop, asked if it would be ok to have breakfast and stay there until about 9AM. They had no problem with that since it wasn’t busy, so I didn’t take up a booth for another customer.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Thank you for pointing that out.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Airplane travel is substantially cheaper than it was before thus allowing more people the option of flying.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Tour bus. Vacationers. Sure.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The amount of money is irrelevant. ( well not completely). Businesses have a perception of their clients. Less affluent clients are more likely to get abused and receive lower quality service regardless of the amount paid. More affluent clients get better service.

    As long as the perception exists (right or wrong) that greyhound travelers are lower income, greyhound will continue to treat its customers poorly.

  • TonyA_says

    I always thought that was the reason to lookup old classmates or old buddies for :-)

    On another note, anyone who takes a roadtrip needs to prepare for being caught out and stuck on the road. I always have protein bars, pocket warmers, yaktrax walkers, a gore-tex layer, and a synthetic down jacket packed in a bag.

    Looking at the recorded weather history for his route on 01FEB 2013

    Minneapolis, MN:
    Actual: 4 | -13
    Precip: 0.06
    Average: 25 | 9
    Precip: 0.02

    Des Moines, IA:
    Actual: 26 | -5
    Precip: Trace
    Average: 32 | 15
    Precip: 0.04

    Bloomington, IL:
    Actual: 20 | 1
    Precip: 0.00
    Average: 9 | -15
    Precip: 0.09

    Note that he was traveling on a 100% frozen route that day.
    When he departed Minneapolis (the coldest of all his locations) he should have known that it was damn cold (and snowing) and prepared for the worst.

    Please note that there was no -17 degrees reported in Des Moines for 01FEB.
    That was an exaggeration on his part.

  • TonyA_says

    One-Way By Bus:

    From: Minneapolis, MN
    To: Bloomington Normal, IL
    Miles: 487
    15h, 0m

    7-Day Advance Purchase $108.00
    Non-refundable Fare $123.00
    Refundable Fare $138.00

    One-Way by Air:
    Nonstop 1h 22m

    7 Day Advance: $ 371.90
    21 Day Advance: $ 215.90

    Bus is a lot cheaper.

  • TonyA_says

    Seems to me Des Moines could have more private – public cooperation.
    They just opened a new (DART) transportation center (using federal stimulus money).
    I can’t understand why they did not invite Greyhound to move there.
    That is what we did in Stamford, CT. Our Transportation Center has trains, buses, etc. in one area.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Maybe the wind chill? I don’t have the time to review the records on my weather station for February, but trust me, when the wind blows out here on a snowy, winter day, it’s darn cold. Occasionally, Omaha Public Schools will cancel or delay classes if the wind chill is 20 below or more, since a sizable portion of its population has to wait outside for buses in the morning.

  • LFH0

    You’ve hit on a critical distinction. There are plenty of buses used by tour groups. Carnival Corp., through its subsidiaries Holland America, Princess Cruises, et al., has a huge tour bus market in Alaska and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, and they pamper their passengers on motorcoaches which travel by day (hotel by night) and are off-limits to passengers who merely seek transportation.

  • LFH0

    The sentence, “My son’s girlfriend sat in the Dallas terminal from 2AM until 11PM that night, arriving home two days later than she should have,” makes the implication that the connection should have been held so as to avoid having to arrive home two days late.

    But with the number of people inconvenienced, 40 to 50, there is another point for scolding Greyhound Lines. In years past it was regular practice for Greyhound Lines to add extra sections to particular schedules when there were more passengers traveling than could be accommodated on a single coach. With a standard 45-foot motorcoach having a typical capacity of 55 passengers, the number of people waiting in Dallas would seemingly justify putting on an extra section, even if three hours late. Moreover, the Greyhound Tarrif and Sales Manual (available at, on page 1.8, notes that a group with 32 adult walk-up tickets may have exclusive occupancy of a coach without any notice to Greyhound Lines. Any excuse by Greyhound Lines that it had no drivers available would carry little weight with me since Dallas is their corporate headquarters (indeed, one would think that the Dallas station would be the “showplace” for Greyhound Lines to exhibit its “best,” but such is truly not the case).

  • LFH0

    Generally, I very much like intermodal transportation terminals. One of the best in the country is at South Bend, Indiana, where in a single building there is (1) an airport serving several commercial airlines, (2) a train station serving the South Shore Line, (3) an intercity bus station serving several bus companies, and (4) a transit bus stop. True, there is sometimes the difficult choice in deciding where to locate intercity buses when the intermodal transportation center is rather distant from the city center, but in places like Stamford the transportation center is ideally located right in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, with the emphasis by Greyhound Lines on their “express” service, there are not that many schedules which stop in Stamford these days (I believe that all, or nearly all, of the schedules are on the New York-to-Boston via Providence route, rather than the faster route via Hartford).

    The problem in many places is that the Federal Transit Administration has long funded local public transportation systems, and the administrators at many of those systems look at those federal dollars for building monuments to themselves. “Their” public transportation system. To invite Greyhound Lines (or other private bus companies) into “their” terminals means loss of control and loss of political credit. In those places, it is about building kingdoms, not transportation centers. Now there’s some pressure on states to act, for Section 5311(f) of the Federal Transit Act requires states to actually consider intercity buses in their plans (though the provision does not have as many teeth in it as it might), and some states actually do a decent job . . . Michigan comes to mind in that regard. But so long as local government is in control, local needs will take precedence over intercity needs.

  • LFH0

    Burlington Trailways does not really care that much about the difference between the station’s opening at 3:45 a.m. or 5:00 a.m., since it has 9 daily arrivals and departures all between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Meanwhile, Jefferson Lines has 8 daily arrivals and departures, from 4:10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

  • TonyA_says

    I made a list of their stops earlier.
    Yup Burlington Trailways did not need the building till 530AM.
    But Jefferson does. Since it has a 410AM and 500AM.
    I think the OP was on a Jefferson #805 from Minneapolis and was connecting to Trailways #1402 at Des Moines.
    I also wonder if they need to open early if the weather was not that cold.

    Burlington Trailways:
    10 Stops at Des Moines, IA

    5:30A 1203 Chicago–Omaha
    8:20A 1206 Omaha-Chicago
    8:45A 1402 Denver-Indianapolis
    9:10A 1102 Omaha-Chicago
    3:15P 1410 Omaha-Chicago
    5:35P 1401 Indianapolis–Denver
    5:45P 1101 Chicago–Omaha
    5:55P 1205 Chicago–Omaha
    10:50P 1201 Chicago–Omaha
    11:00P 1202 Omaha-Chicago

    Jefferson Lines:
    8 stops at Des Moines, IA

    4:10A 805 Minneapolis to Kansas City
    5:00A 806 Kansas City – Minneapolis
    8:55A 807 Minneapolis to Kansas City
    11:20A 804 Kansas City – Minneapolis
    3:15P 808 Kansas City – Minneapolis
    5:45P 803 Minneapolis to Kansas City
    10:30P 801 Minneapolis to Kansas City
    10:40P 802 Kansas City – Minneapolis

  • TonyA_says

    Ever been to Japan? I was very impressed with New Chitose Airport. While it is about an hour away from Sapporo city, the airport has JR (Japan Rail) station in the basement. Also four (4) bus companies (JR, Chuo, Donan and Hokuto Kotsu) can take you to Sapporo and other Hokkaido destinations. The buses there are like tour buses – safe and clean (not like our defunct Fung Wah bus between Chinatown NYC and Boston).

    ADDED: I forgot, Sapporo also has a subway system and lots of nice, clean taxis (queued on stops). There is an underground shopping MALL system in the main part of the city! It happens to be the snowiest city in the world so you can shop underground.

    I am not sure there is any country that will come close to having a better rail system than Japan (not even Europe). But what surprised me is their bus system was also very good. My Japanese guides in Hokkaido keep on telling me that Japan invited a lot of American engineers a long time ago to help them modernize the country. I think we need the same kind of engineers here in our own country. We are actually embarrassing compared to Japan and Europe.

    PS. Now that Fung Wah is dead, I see there is new cheap bus line formed by Greyhound and Peter Pan named YO that serves the same Chinatown routes.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    LFH0 – the implication was yours and yours alone. I merely stated my son’s GF was there that long. I didn’t know anyone else on the bus and when I talked to her, I didn’t ask her to poll everyone in the terminal to see how many others there were or if she were the only one. I did ask her how many she THOUGHT were held up, too, and she told me there were about 40 to 50. She, too, didn’t feel the need to do a survey of the terminal for exact information.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Long ago, there was a Michael J. Fox movie that had me want to be a travel writer called “Doc Hollywood”. David Ogden Stiers played the mayor of the little town in which MJF’s character (Doc Hollywood/Ben Stone) was stuck. The mayor was trying to convince him to stay there, so they could have a new doctor there. What he told him has stuck with me ever since I saw the movie in 1991 in the theater:

    Get off the highway, Ben Stone. Get off the highway!

    I believe if more people took the time to stay on the ground when they traveled, they’d have a greater appreciation for the country in which they live. There’s some things you just can’t get from a plane.

  • Alan Gore

    In this rural area, a hundred miles from the big city, there is a thriving market for van services called “airport shuttles.” In fact, these bring people by the mall, to concerts, stadiums and other urban places on the way. People seem willing to pay quite high prices so long as they get shuttle-class comfort and reliability.

    To me this proves that there is an untapped market for high-class regional bus service in places like this – just don’t dare use the B-word. Mention Greyhound, and the public image is surliness, vomit running down the aisles and grimy run-down terminals.

  • Alan Gore

    When a bus line closes old terminals, which are generally in the worst part of town anyway, why not stop at fast food restaurants instead? McDonalds would be happy to get the additional business, and it would be a warm and safe place for passengers to wait.

  • Steven Reed Sr.

    As I live in Dm IA, I take exception to the fact that Greyhound says it does not serves our city, the terminal here in Des Moines is clearly signed as a Greyhound terminal, and the busses that come in and out of the terminal say Greyhound on them, as well as Trailways and I beleive Jefferson lines. I have taken several bus trips to other cities in Iowa and I always board a bus that say Greyhound with a driver wearing a Greyhound uniform, so if Greyhound does not serve my city who is operating these buses that are marked Greyhound? I beleive greyhound fed a bunch of bull to Chis to make us all think that they do not strand riders in Des Moines. I work near the terminal and routinely see buses in and out of the terminal while it is closed and people standing around waiting for their bus.

  • LFH0

    In fact, many bus lines, including Greyhound Lines, have been doing that. Traditionally many of the larger Greyhound Lines terminals had Post House restaurants where travelers could get a decent meal, but I remember that starting in the late 1970s the company began converting those restaurants into Burger King franchises, and later, dropping the franchise and just served hot dogs, etc. More recently, Greyhound Lines has simply been scheduling meal stops at McDonald’s and Pilot Travel Centers, in some cases even forgoing city center bus stations and having stops at these fast food locations on the periphery near the interstate highway. It is one way to deal with the social problems of the city center bus stations, and it relieves the bus companies of having to pay for the real estate, but it can inconvenience passengers who now have to make their way to the city’s periphery (not all have good public transportation systems which allow for such connections) and the prospect of having to make do with fast food (as opposed to real food) is unappealing to at least some of us.

  • LFH0

    One minor correction to your list regarding Burlington Trailways. Schedule 1101 is Chicago-Des Moines via Dubuque, and schedule 1102 is Des Moines-Chicago via Dubuque. Thus, there are a total of 9 arrivals daily, and 9 departures daily. Of course, this does not affect the underlying proposition that Burlington Trailways does not “need” the station until 5:30 a.m. (well, maybe a few minutes earlier to allow for timely ticketing and baggage checking).

    I also see from the Greyhound Lines website that the company will be returning to Iowa when, starting April 1, 2013, it will be operating a new route between Springfield, Mo. and Ottumwa, Iowa (see Connections will be available at Ottumwa with Burlington Trailways for service continuing on to Des Moines and points beyond. Still, Greyhound Lines itself will not be returning to Des Moines. The new route had once been operated by Missouri Transit Lines, Inc., but had been discontinued for many years.

  • LFH0

    The Des Moines station itself is owned by Greyhound Lines, but is operated by Burlington Trailways and Jefferson Lines. My understanding is that Greyhound Lines is looking to unload that station since it has no need for it.

    It is not uncommon in the intercity bus industry for one bus company to share its motorcoaches with other companies. This used to be more prevalent in years past when many routes were operated by multiple companies. But this practice does continue today where, for example, a single bus is operated on the route between Nashville, Tenn. and Tallahassee, Fla., but is operated by Greyhound Lines only between Nashville and Birmingham, Ala., and by Capital Trailways (or more precisely, Capital Motor Lines) the rest of the way between Birmingham, Ala. and Tallahassee. Depending on the pool agreement between the companies, it may be that both Greyhound and Trailways buses are used, and that sometimes a Greyhound driver will operate a Trailways bus, and at other times a Trailways driver will operate a Greyhound bus. The same is true in upstate New York where there is a pool on the route between New York or Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Toronto, where Greyhound Lines pools with Adirondack Trailways (Adirondack Transit Lines), Pine Hill Trailways (Pine Hill-Kingston Bus Corp.), and New York Trailways (Passenger Bus Corp.).

    While Des Moines does not see any pooled service, I would not be surprised to periodically see a Greyhound Lines bus at Des Moines. But such bus would not be operated by Greyhound Lines (unless being operated as a charter). The only two intercity bus companies with regularly-scheduled service to and from Des Moines are Burlington Trailways and Jefferson Lines.

  • Joe Farrell

    But one can purchase a ticket on an airline from MSP-DSM for about the smae price as a bus ticket. Same with a train – Amtrak has buses from its stops to Des Moines – prob the same bus. The point being that money was not the issue here – its just that bus companies could truly care less- they operate the bus – thats it. You are on your own has been bus travel juju for 100 years.

  • Joe Farrell

    exactly the point I was making . . . .

  • Sooke

    To endure that much time on a bus, you’re either deathly afraid of flying, or you are unable to show photo ID at the airport

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Actually, it was neither. The original plan was to visit her father on Maui, where she’s from originally, go to S. Korea for a week with him on vacation and then fly to see my son and fly back. However, just before she got to Hawaii, her paternal grandmother passed away and all her relatives needed help flying to Maui from the main island, so he used up all his buddy passes and free flights getting family there.

    She didn’t want to skip seeing my son, her boyfriend, and this was the least expensive alternative.

    However, she vows she’ll never do it again. It was the single most frightening trip of her life.

  • Joe Farrell

    And thats not relevant – the fact that $75 is alot of money to one person and not another does not matter at all to the bus company or to any other retailer or travel business. Pay your money, get what you paid for.