Hop On The Bus, Gus

I don’t have much experience riding a bus, either for local commutes or inter city travel.  And I suspect most Americans don’t either. We like our cars too much and buses just have not been an appealing way to travel.

When I lived in the Philippines, I used to take a midnight bus to the mountain “summer capital” of Baguio. That saved a long, arduous drive which was dangerous enough on flat roads but which became a “white knuckle” journey on the twisting mountain road.  Leaving at midnight reduced the travel time to about six hours for the 155 mile trip.  (In the 60’s almost all the roads were two lanes.)

Once in Baguio, a car wasn’t needed since the city was small and cabs were cheap for longer (or uphill) distances.  Or if it was just “us guys”, a colorful jeepney was even cheaper and often easier to find.

This is how to ride!

This is how to ride short distances in the Philippines

When we traveled to Europe, where public transportation is much more widely used, buses were still not a frequent option.  Large cities had subways and small cities were walkable.  For travel between cities, we took a train.

In Italy, I was amazed how frequently those trains departed. We traveled by train between Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples and in many cases there were hourly departures.  I recall calculating the price (in the mid-80’s) of a train between Venice and Florence, a distance of 160 miles, to be $15 each.  And the train arrived at a central downtown location with connections to local public transportation.

In Spain, we did travel between cities by bus twice.  Once was between Ronda and Seville because the train took most of the day due to a mountainous geography requiring travel first north, changing trains and then coming back south. The bus was direct and only took about two and a half hours.

The second bus trip was between Seville and Madrid. There is a high speed “express” train between these cities which covers the 330 miles in 2 1/2 hours but it was expensive (currently about 80 Euros). The “local” trains had too many stops for my liking. Taking a bus was not only faster but cheaper (currently about 22 Euros).

Our bus had comfortable, airline style reclining seats, a toilet and movies.  And I enjoyed the scenery, which included some gorgeous mountain views that I took photos of.  Including a stop for lunch, the trip was about six hours or only about twice as long as the express train.

Scenic view from bus between Seville and Madrid

Scenic view from bus between Seville and Madrid

Unlike Interstates in the U.S.,  there was little traffic on the intercity highways.  And no “18-wheeler” trucks.  I guess most stuff travels by rail.  Maybe that’s because gas was $5 a gallon in 2006.  The pavement looked brand new since there was little wear and tear.

A few days ago, I was reading the online edition of the Tampa newspaper.  I noticed an article about a new inter city bus line about to begin service there called Megabus.  It would provide service to some Florida cities for fares as low as $1.  The article mentioned that the company already served Tallahassee, where I live.

Megasbus’ presence where I live was news to me.  I’d not previously heard about this company.  So I checked out their website and found that they offered service not only to Florida cities but also to New Orleans.  (All their routes appear to be ones that can be completed in a day.)

I checked the fare to New Orleans (almost 400 miles) for early June…$1. Wow! Not only is that a big savings on gas but on parking, since you’d be lucky to find parking in New Orleans for $10 a day.  (You can walk or take the streetcar to just about any attraction in New Orleans.)

Megabus offers its 80-seat double decker bus service in over 30 states, including California, Texas, and Illinois.  I checked the price for an early June trip between D.C. and New York.  I found six departures between 5 AM and 10 AM for about $20 and a 10:30 departure for $5 for the four and a half hour journey. (D.C. and New York are also cities you don’t want to park or drive in.)

Megabus also operates in a number of European countries. Here is their website.   Maybe next time you’ll consider a bus….

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2 responses to “Hop On The Bus, Gus

  1. I can’t log onto the website, it’s too busy. Must have been designed by Katherine Sebelius.

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