Bus Travel is Booming

The new Union Station in Springfield MA replaced a dingy collection of bus and train depots.
The new Union Station in Springfield MA replaced a dingy collection of bus and train depots.

The Changing Climate of Bus Transportation
It’s not glamorous, but bus travel in Europe is improving every day

By Andy Christian Castillo

A man sleeps on a bench in a bus station, somewhere in the United States.
A man sleeps on a bench in a bus station, somewhere in the United States.

There’s something gritty and appealing about the old Springfield, MA, Peter Pan bus station — if you looked past the dirty floors, and smooth-talking panhandlers, the faded brick walls and 1960’s era vending machines it took on a certain nostalgic charm that can’t be found elsewhere.

Union Station

Thankfully, in 2017 the company moved into the much nicer digs at the new federally-funded Union Station, marking the end of a miserable era for bus travelers in this tired Western Mass city.

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.

There aren't many cheaper alternatives to traveling by bus.
There aren’t many cheaper alternatives to traveling 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 continuous 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.

 

 

Amtrak’s Rail Pass prices 2019

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.”

Why Americans Still
Board the Greyhounds

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. There are now also luxury bus routes on high-traffic routes from NY to Boston, like Limoliner.

Wanderu

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:

Wanderu home
Wanderu home

“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.

Busabout

Busabout
Busabout

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 free spirits… 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!

Eurolines Pass

Screen Shot 2015 09 30 at 1.18.05 AMSimilar 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

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.
Trains used to be the go-to ground transportation for France; but all that could soon change.

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 buses 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.

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