Anne Marie Chaker of The Wall Street Journal wrote an excellent review recently of the new bus services that have come onto the scene to cater to business travelers. Her story includes a charming video of her trip to Baltimore on Greyhound.
She calls her article "Planes, Trains ... and Buses?" I think it is beside the point to note that in the movie John Candy indeed boards a bus to get home — along with taxi, plane, train, rental car, delivery truck, semi, and subway.
I have to admit that I've not got an extended recent history riding buses. Buses have not had a reputation among business travelers as a reliable and reasonable option until recently. As Chaker notes, the introduction of amenities like Internet access and more comfortable seats, as well as an overall cleanliness, changes that picture. Some bus lines even include power plug access! Clearly, this is not your father's Greyhound.
These business-friendly amenities and luxurious feel are comparable to what is available on Amtrak. They place airline service in the shade.
Just as on a train you'll probably be able to use your cellphone, but where the bus has Amtrak beat is with wi-fi service. For that matter, these new bus runs also beat Amtrak when it comes to on-time service. Amtrak's Acela is pretty reliable, but the on-time service records of Amtrak's disparate regional lines range from inconsistent to undependable.
Bus service is an excellent option for short-haul cities like Washington, D.C., to New York City or Miami to Orlando — typical three-hour runs.
Not only is there a shorter check-in time than with the airlines, there's no security line to slow you down. You still have to visit inner city bus depots just as you do when taking the train. But when you are looking to travel downtown to downtown, bus service is highly convenient. Bus service is also a good option for travel to cities where you don't need to rent a car.
Traffic is the wildcard with bus service. Well-run as a bus line may be, traffic jams can put them behind schedule. Still, if you were driving instead of taking a bus on one of those three-hour runs, you'd face the same traffic — but you'd also be unable to work and be productive during your travel time; and you'd arrive frazzled besides. That's the great attraction for the road warrior when weighing the bus against the car or the plane.
Count me among those who looks forward to giving the bus a go next time I am traveling on business on one of those three-hour runs.
Road Warrior • Miami • www.us.amadeus.com