Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Greyhound Express: A Review

Last week I had the opportunity to travel from Minneapolis to Chicago using the Greyhound Express service. I have previously traveled between the two cities in past years using Greyhound, but had not yet tried the new "luxury" Express version. Overall I was impressed. Here is a brief overview of the experience.

Waiting for the bus:
  • Minneapolis: Express customers wait in the same general waiting area as everyone else who is traveling out of the Hawthorne Bus Depot. While this isn't as select as having a separate waiting area, it certainly works. Additionally Hawthorne was fairly empty while waiting to board on a Sunday evening. 
  • Chicago: Express customers are given a special seating area, at doors 1-6, only available to Express ticket holders. seating in the Express waiting area was not abundant, but still generally available as compared to the other gates.
Boarding the bus:

The Express service does not follow the "every passenger for him/herself", first-come-first-serve, boarding method that regular Greyhound services use. Riders board in groups, 1-10, 11-20, etc. Each ticket comes with a boarding number. Therefore you do not need to line up at the gate until your boarding group is called. This is much nicer than lining up at the gate when getting to the station in hopes of being able to pick a decent seat. This also means you don't necessarily have to show up an entire hour before the bus departs, although it is still recommended.

Once you get to board the bus, e-tickets purchased online will need an ID shown when handing it to the driver, so it is best to have that ready. After turning in your ticket you are free to board, and take any unoccupied seat you like.

Riding the bus:

Greyhound uses new or rebuilt coaches on its Express service, these feature electrical outlets, free wi-fi, and some extra legroom compared to their regular fleet. (After riding I think the first couple rows are still the same for legroom however.)
Greyhound Lines 86335
An example of a coach used for the Greyhound Express service, this is a MCI D4505 unit, and is equipped with power outlets and wi-fi service
Express service is just that, Express. There are usually only one or two stops depending on the distance traveled. From Minneapolis there was one meal stop and then one stop in Milwaukee to drop-off and pickup more passengers. It was the same on the reverse. This was much nicer than some bus trips where it felt almost like riding a city bus because the bus seemed to stop at every corner along the way.

The bus was not very crowded at the times I was traveling. This may vary depending on the day and direction however. Clientele using the service were not exactly the upper-middle class, but they weren't homeless bums and druggies either. Overall it appeared to be decent hard working folks and college students who were riding.

Time:

For this trip, time spent traveling was not excessive considering the mode. It took about 8.5 hours traveling from Minneapolis to Chicago,  and about the same on the return trip. While that is longer than a flight it is also a bit more enjoyable getting to see some of the country along the way. The 8.5 hours also included about 40 minutes of break time while en route.

Price:

This was the best part, $10 round trip between Minneapolis and Chicago. Even a very fuel efficient car can't meet that low price. Airfare? Ha! Now you won't get $10 fare if you want to ride tomorrow, you need to buy at least a month ahead of time for that sort of deal. Still if you want to go somewhere in say, six weeks, and you aren't dead set on driving or flying, Greyhound Express might be a nice option.

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