Monday, February 22, 2010

Bus Life ($1 Tickets)

Waaaaaaay back in 2003 when I was a first year in college, I traveled home for breaks and holidays by Greyhound bus.

Back then, it was a simpler time for travel; less options, more money.

I would actually spend $60 or more on my round trip bus ticket from New York to Baltimore, which is probably the most traveled road route on the eastern seaboard. And for what? To sit on a crowded bus next to a smelly obese woman? Or an incessantly talkative 30-something bachelor? Or behind a woman who when she sneezed and Best Friend offered her a cordial "Bless You," she loudly retorted "Bless me?! Don't bless me!!" (All true stories.)

Still, I stuck with Greyhound. Even if they ran out of seats and put you on two buses later. Now I won't pretend like the Chinatown bus didn't exist. They had super low ticket prices, but after hearing stories of buses getting to DC in 2.5 hours flat careening on two wheels, I realized I valued my life much more. So, I stuck with Greyhound.

At some point though, somebody got wise and realized that if you offer dependable bus service with better amenities at cheaper prices along well traveled routes, the people will come.

All of a sudden, the word spread like wildfire that you could get a bus ticket to New York City for $1. $1? ONE DOLLAR?! One ride on my MetroCard cost more than double that!  A host of these $1 (or so) bus companies popped up in just a few short years, and they have given Greyhound a run for its money. They are sleek clean new coaches with wireless internet connections, outlets, leg room, and speedy-but-safe travel times all for $20 or less. And to complete the experience, these cheap ticket buses spawned a whole new bus travel culture.

There are bus pick ups and drop offs on random street corners throughout Manhattan and just-off transportation depots in Maryland. (Like the overpass right before you get to Baltimore's Penn Station. Or that one particular sidewalk at the White Marsh Park & Ride.) You can tell there might be a bus stop by the random line that's forming on the sidewalk. Or you might not be able to tell a bus is coming until it pulls up and the masses empty their cars and move directly to the bus.

2010 is the age of the bus. It has brought people closer together (if you count strangers asking if this was the right stop for the right time and destination.) Buses RULE the I-95 between DC and NYC. During rush hours the Holland tunnel onto NJ Turnpike is filled with nothing but buses as far as the eye can see.

$1 tickets probably took people off trains and put them on buses.
$1 tickets have certainly made it easier for college first years to see their parents at Christmas.
And $1 tickets definitely made it easier for poor, but working grown folks to go home for the weekend.

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