Bus Travel is Booming
The Changing Climate of Bus Transportation
It's not glamourous, but bus travel in Europe is improving every day
By Andy Christian Castillo
There’s something gritty and appealing about the Springfield, MA, Peter Pan bus station -- if you can look past the dirty floors, and smooth-talking panhandlers, the faded brick walls and 1960’s era vending machines take on a certain nostalgic charm that can’t be found elsewhere.
It becomes a place in-between places; like a rift in time, or a reality outside of reality. Whenever I push open the smudged, sticker residue’d doors, it feels like I’m exiting my own world, and entering someplace far away. The buses are portals, going to another place and time, and I become an observer of a reality apart from my own.
There aren't many alternatives cheaper than traveling by bus. At least in my experiences of traveling through Europe and the United States, in recent years, Europe has been monopolized (more so) by train travel and the U.S., by bus.
More than that, transportation in the U.S. has been characterized by private automobile, and Europe by public transport -- because a lot of the U.S. isn’t even accessible by service routes.
But the tide is turning: recently, Amtrak released a U.S. Rail Pass, with options to book 15, 30, or 45 days of continous train travel (prices range from $460 to $900). The U.S. is getting on board the train that Europe has been riding for years, and making public transportation more accessible.
Bus Travel in France
In the most obvious display of the changing travel climate, France holds the record for the biggest (predicted) boom in bus travel.
According to a recent press release about bus travel in France, “although the train has long stood out as the preferred method of transport by the French, theFrench Government’s approval of the Macron Law, a bill designed to modernize France’s economy, speed up growth and deregulate many industries, has opened up the coaching industry.”
As a result of the law, 250 new routes are available across France and into Germany, Amsterdam, Spain and Brussels. An expected 5,000,000 new coach passengers will be riding those routes with tickets 10% to 70% cheaper, resulting in 22,000 new jobs.
And it isn’t just trains -- companies like Wanderu, which book travel routes (busses in particular), are bringing ground transportation into the 21st century. They recently added Peter Pan Bus Lines into their app:
“By making Peter Pan’s extensive network of bus routes available on Wanderu, we are providing travelers across North America with a lot more flexibility when it comes to planning a trip,” said Polina Raygorodskaya, CEO and Co-Founder of Wanderu.
“Peter Pan travels daily to and from locations that no other carrier serves which allows us to provide our users with many new opportunities to explore the country.”
The deal comes a few months after a contract with Amtrak to incorporate their routes into Wanderu’s travel search network.
"Wanderu makes bus and train travel super easy," Raygorodskaya went on to say, "Travelers can type in any address, point of interest or city and we automatically find the closest station to you and show you transit directions to get to and from the station.
Also, if your trip requires more than one bus or a bus and a train to get you to your final destination, Wanderu will pair options from different providers to get you where you need to go quickly and hassle-free. We have partnerships in place with all of the main bus companies in the U.S. so you can see all of your options and find the best trip at the best price."
According to their website, “Wanderu is the simplest way to book bus and train travel across North America." They have made cheap ground travel a lot more convenient.
Dobrev also mentioned that the company is aiming to expand into Europe sometime in 2016.
On the European front, ground transportation is booming: especially bus travel.
First and foremost for the adventurous traveler, is Busabout. They advertise as “Flexible travel for freespirits... link up must-see sights with off-beat adventures and allow you to choose how you want to do it.”
Basically, Busabout sells “flexistops,” or a certain number of travel days -- where you go on those days, is up to you. The nice thing is that you’ve paid for them ahead of time. The passes are valid for the entire operating season, so the choice of where you want to go, or how long you want to stay, is yours!
Similar to the well-known “Europass” for train travel, Eurolines Pass provides an unlimited bus pass for 15 or 30 continues days of travel around Europe.
GoEuro is sort of like the Wanderu for Europe: they have an extensive search engine that simplifies booking bus (trains and planes, too) routes.
Trains used to be the go-to ground transportation for France; but all that could soon change.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about late busses and broken down trains -- I’ve lived them. But at the end of the day, it’s impossible to beat the price or the experiences. And if you’re an adventurous traveler like I am, you’ll substitute a few lost hours for a memorable experience in a heartbeat.
During a deployment as a firefighter with the USAF to the sweltering Middle East, Andy was bitten by the travel bug and smitten with the allure of adventure. Since then, he’s traveled everywhere; and when he isn’t on the road, he’s dreaming of far away places.
A 2016 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst he’s now at Bay Path University studying an MFA in Creative Non Fiction, and works as a beat reporter at a small daily newspaper. Andy lives in S. Deerfield Mass.