Is it worth traveling this season via Greyhound bus lines, Crucero or Americano? Are these affordable solutions to travel worth the price paid in overall comfort? Or should you choose Amtrak or an airline as a better alternative? Find out what a trip on Greyhound will likely look like for you should you choose the bus as your choice to get to your destination this year.
Greyhound bus, Crucero, Americano
Are you thinking about taking the bus for your travels this season? This author did. Rather than navigating the eight-hour traffic compounded freeways from the San Fernando Valley (think west Los Angeles) it just made sense to sit back and relax while someone else did the driving. For this excursion, Greyhound Bus was the selection of choice. Crucero and Americano share the facilities and appeared to be one and the same. Greyhound was given another chance to redeem themselves. You see, six years ago a trip from Phoenix to Tucson (120 miles) took eight hours because of chaos at the facility and leaving four hours late which put the trip in the middle of a busy Phoenix rush-hour. That trip should only take two-hours, at most. So, up for an adventure, hopefully a good one; the trip began.
First off, what happens to you in an airport if you set your bags down and walk away from them? This happens to be standard procedure in the bus depots. The unspoken rule of the traveling passengers is that you set your bag down in line behind the door number you were assigned to exit thru. You can take a seat, stand, charge your phone or laptop, or visit the snack bar. When your driver arrives, the door opens and the travelers rush to their bags and board.
On an aircraft and on the Amtrak you typically receive an assigned seat with elderly or other needs passengers boarded first out of common courtesy and respect. Here, you get in line; first come, first served. Regardless of your capabilities, you are thrust into a frenzy of trying to get your checked bag (if you brought one) on under the bus while other passengers are hurriedly boarding the bus as the seating is not assigned and whatever is available when you step into the aisle is what you get as you choose from what is left. My observations, ultimately, were that this was the worst idea ever for a seating plan for customers. If you are not one of the first twenty on the bus, you are likely not going to be comfortable or necessarily happy with where you end up sitting for your trip.
The small hub (a tiny strip mall with some businesses in it) in North Hollywood surely exemplifies the small hubs and bus stops everywhere. There was one man working the shop, no security and the bathroom had a lock that required key retrieval from the one man working to use it.
In Los Angeles, there seemed to be a basic security guard and a sign that said your bags could be searched. As a transfer, no security, just check-in at the information point and show the person your ticket and they will direct you which door to go to.
In San Diego, the waiting area is not indoors! The hub is outside and downtown. There is a small area that is gated with a three-foot high fence. There are about twenty seats available and an awning, but no walls. The bathrooms are nice, however. If you go to the San Diego Greyhound hub make sure you bring cold weather appropriate clothing to protect you while you wait. You will be waiting. The security is a person at the front three-foot gate where depending on the gumption of the individual they will or will not go through your belongings, as observed. It’s kind of funny though seeing how the gate is short enough to step over at any point and without the security guard noticing, especially if it’s busy.
That may be an understatement. However, the facilities really were much cleaner than remembered from any previous trip taken by Greyhound over the last twenty-five years. They are small and without enough seating. Cramped style fits the description perfectly. Confusion and ambiguous direction abound. Kindness from the other travelers is not prevalent. I can see why. Long lines, uncertainty of direction given, no seating, long delays, and changes to trip plans due to the delays all surely are reasons why most of the customers were not peppy as if they were traveling first-class on an airline.
It’s no secret that tickets are inexpensive and you get what you pay for. This is absolutely true in this instance. Unlike Amtrak, which takes pride on leaving on-time nearly every time, the bus nearly always leaves late. In addition to being overbooked, which means even if you bought your ticket if you are not on the bus by the time all the seats are filled, guess what? You lose your seat and have to wait until the next bus! How would that work in your travel plans?
If you travel by Greyhound, you must account for leaving late. Sitting on the floor or standing for long periods of time will also likely be in your future. Expect to miss your departure time for sure due to delays and add at least an hour to your total expected travel trip time. If you have a connection, beware! Your bus will likely arrive late as will your connection, but you can’t count on that. In short, if you approach traveling by Greyhound as a better solution to hitch-hiking and a safe way to travel at a reduced budget without care of environment or basic courtesies and you don’t mind having a malleable schedule, then your trip will no doubt be just grand.
Two incidents of note occurred while traveling this seemingly simple route from L.A. to San Diego: First, who knows where it came from but there was a handful of wet feces on the ground outside the door of our departure where we waited on our return trip. At least three different employees observed it and left it in the walkway on the sidewalk thru the clear glass in front of all the passengers. Oh, and it stunk. Finally, one of the workers saw it, covered it with a large yellow caution cone “Caution-wet floor” and returned five minutes later with supplies to clear the mess. That was disgusting and explaining that to my eight year old was about as fun as stepping in a pothole in dress shoes that is filled with mud water.
Secondly, since it is holiday season, one would think a business would plan for the expectation of overcrowding and make adjustments prior to, or at least have the wherewithal to make those adjustments on the fly. Well, it just so happened that on two of the legs of this trip the bus was over-sold. In San Diego, after entering the cow pen to try to find a hidden seat, passengers were disgruntled and commenting that they had been there for three hours due to their bus being over-sold and they were looking to get on our bus! That meant potentially having to stay an unscheduled night in San Diego if that bus filled up as that was the last one for the day. Greyhound stuffed the left over passengers on three different busses going to L.A. It’s unknown if there were any travelers that did not get a ride. My bus, for example, was supposed to leave at 5:15 p.m. The bus I was directed to board was leaving late at 5:00 p.m. and I was told that even though it was not a non-stop trip like the ticket that was purchased for the 5:15 p.m. trip; that the 5:15 p.m. bus was going to be late by an unknown amount of time. So taking this bus was the obvious choice since there were a few seats available to those of us at the front of the line.
Leaving the Los Angeles station was a free-for-all. A large woman had sent her six year old sick child on-board ahead of her to grab two seats while she dealt with the luggage to be placed underneath the bus. That made sense to send her child in first because if she put her luggage on and didn’t get a seat, she would likely be pulling her luggage right back off in short order. Ultimately, her child grabbed only his seat and some woman sat next to him. There were about ten people standing in the aisle and all of the bus seats were filled. An argument ensued between the child’s mom and the young woman who sat next to her son. The child’s mom argued loudly that her six year old was sick and had been vomiting and that she must sit next to her son and that he was supposed to save her the other seat. You would think the young woman would have conceded her seat, but she didn’t. Instead, the child was called by his mom and they exited the bus rapidly with yelling by the mom. The driver looked on the bus and did nothing.
There was some confusion outside between the drivers about the situation and it appeared that the mom and child would be pulled off the bus as there were no seats and people standing in the aisle. Expecting for the driver to make two seats available and take those standing in the aisle off the bus, most of the passengers were surprised when the driver boarded and not only left those standing in the aisle but also placed the mother and sick child on the boarding steps to sit. Then, he abruptly shut the door and we drove off onto the freeway. I couldn’t believe it. The first stop thirty-five minutes later was mine and I exited. I spoke with the mother and child and voiced my disbelief at their treatment and the trip in totality. She apologized saying she was a Christian mom and shouldn’t have been yelling and stated she also apologized to the young woman. I informed her that there was not a good reason both she and her son were not given seats or at least the driver should have requested volunteers to give up their seats prior to his abrupt and non-informative departure from the Los Angeles station.
As an observer, I was livid and even more amazed at the lack of empathy on board that bus by not only the driver but also the passengers’ unwillingness to give up their seats. Then again, it was only the young woman that was afforded the opportunity to give up her seat and didn’t. After that, the driver should have taken control. Ultimately, the observation was that the seating arrangements and lack of seat assignments were the cause of this situation. Surely this has occurred many times previously and will happen continuously in the future unless the procedures are modified.
The bottom-line is this: Crowded, unflattering environment is not a problem. Not enough wait time seating? Okay. Feces allowed to steam on the sidewalk? So what? Having to wait outside due to no walls? Alright. The main issue: The human element has been lost. A child of six and his mother (or father for that matter) based on the precepts of common courtesy and the elderly should be given consideration at least to pre-board and not have to sit unsafely on the boarding steps while screaming down the Los Angeles freeways.
If you want a cheap ticket and fairly comfortable seats and that is all of the luxury you desire, need or expect, then this will be your best bet for travel during this holiday season. There is a place and a need for this niche in our community for travel, no doubt. If you can pay $20 for a one-way ticket from L.A. to San Diego on Greyhound, it will surely be double on Amtrak and even more by airline or rental car. If you plan ahead for the circumstances described above your trip will be much more enjoyable and your expectations will be low enough to not leave you disappointed.
As a side note, Greyhound, Crucero and Americano all used the same hubs. Two of the buses we traveled on were Greyhound and Crucero though the ticket was purchased online at the Greyhound website. From the outside looking in, they are one and the same entity.
• Affordability: A
• Waiting rooms: D
• Ride Comfort: B
• Security: F
• Courtesy: F
• Travel Time: D
© Dwayne Ivey November 2012