Green Travel Options: Tell Us About Your Best and Worst Train and Bus Experiences

| 12/21/2009 1:33:04 PM

Tags: question to readers, green travel, buses, trains, global warming, climate change, carbon emissions,

Passenger Train 

If you’re looking for greener — or less expensive — travel options, you may find yourself taking fewer long-distance car or plane trips and traveling more by train or bus. (See note below for more about the best green travel choices.)

So if you opt for a long-distance train or bus trip, what can you expect? Here are the results of a recent reader poll:

Of the roughly 200 people who took the poll on our website, 125 said they had traveled by train or bus to reach a vacation destination. Of those, 100 reported that it was a good experience. The remaining 25 told us it was a horrible experience.

We’d like to hear more! Tell us about your long-distance trips by train and bus, including how those travel options compare to flying and driving. You can share your thoughts by posting a comment below.

More info on green travel: Some types of travel produce more carbon emissions than others, but calculating greenhouse gas emissions can get complicated. The greenest choice for your trip usually depends on how far you’re going and how many people you’re traveling with. The Union of Concerned Scientists has an interesting report analyzing these issues. Here’s their full report on Getting there Greener, and their cheat sheet of green travel options (PDF).

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leigh obrien_2
12/31/2009 1:24:21 PM

The best train-travel experiences I've ever had were when my daughter and I lived in Sweden for six months. The trains ran on time (always!); they were cheap, comfortable, and fast; and there were amenities such as a designated car for people traveling with pets that made them head-and-shoulders above Amtrak. No wonder whole families would travel by train when going on vacation! Add to that the outstanding chocolate muffins in the Stockholm central train station and, well, why travel any other way?

todd martinsen_2
12/28/2009 4:36:08 PM

In April of 2008 my wife and I traveled with our 11 year-old son to New York city for a baseball game and other big city vacation fun. We drove to a commuter rail station in the southernmost area of Northern Virginia. We parked our car for three days at no charge in the commuter lot. This is a bit risky and required arriving extra early in the AM to get a spot but it was worth it. We traveled to Bethesda, Maryland by commuter rail where we picked up a bus service called Vamoose that travels round trip twice daily to NYC. We had made a bus reservation on the Vamoose website. The bus was clean and the passengers quite respectable. The one-way fare was $25 per person. Combined with commuter rail and NYC public transit the entire trip's transportation for the three of us was less than $300. We have traveled by Amtrak but hate the incredibly high fares considering the slowness and paucity of service. Amtrak needs to get off the government's milk bottle and just be solid transporter.

fran tracy
12/28/2009 9:20:04 AM

I needed to deliver a car to my daughter-in-law in Washington DC so I decided to take the bus back to Greenville S. C. I looked at all the schedules and planned to be back in Greenville at 8am to attend an important meeting. The ride was a nightmare. The bus was over crowded and when I had to get off to change buses, I was not allowed to get on the bus I had a ticket for because there were already about 35 people waiting to get on from another bus. I was subsequently rerouted to another bus station and then had to wait several hours again. this bus wasn't a grey hound which AI had ticketed for. The bus was filthy and I froze all the way. Instead of getting in at 8am, I arrived at 8 pm and missed the whole meeting which had repercussions for my job. I will never travel by mas transit again. I usually drive from Greenville to NY in about 14 hours and drive in comfort. My son took the bus from Rome, N.Y. to Greenville and it took him about 30 hours and he says he will never travel that way again also. Fran

12/26/2009 3:00:55 PM

You've got to be kidding, haven't you heard what happened in Manitoba, Canada in 2008: I know there are crazy people everywhere, and risks everyday, but I will be doing my best to stay off a bus!

douglas _1
12/26/2009 12:54:01 PM

I had great train traveling all over Europe in the late 1990's for cheap! I mean a few bucks to go to another city/country. I love the trains and some here in The states too. Several times I enjoyed the Amtrack from Olympia to Seattle. Like Fred mentioned when I smoked the smoker car was a great place to meet and talk to strangers. But now it is also true with the snack car/lounge. The Seattle train stop is right in town near many bus stops. But the Olympia train station is way, way out of town and a bus goes out there only a few times a day and stops at 7 pm I think. It is also expensive. 20$ each way for a one and a half hour trip. With traffic it can be a bad 2 or three hour drive (and each vehicle is occupied by one person! (almost all of them, I looked). The greyhound bus is prohibitively expensive, uncomfortable and infrequent, and 4 or more hours. I love to see more investment in the mass transit. Why can't we have a tax paid for State owned train that was more regular. It is really comfortable.???

12/25/2009 6:09:46 PM

We've taken many many really great train trips from NJ to FL; from Trenton, NJ to Chicago; on the AutoTrain back and forth from VA to FL; and from Chicago to Montreal. However our very worst trip was from FL to NJ during severe rain storms in the southeast. Our train went through the entire State of SC at 25 mph because of floods near and on the tracks. Then we had to get off the train and take a bus from Richmond VA to Washington, DC and wait several hours for another train. The train that finally arrived had a mouse running around in our car! It took us 2 days to get home -- only about 25 hours later than scheduled! Another ill-fated trip many years ago was from Chicago to New Orleans on the old "City of New Orleans" which got stuck in Dyesburg, TN behind a freight train wreck. Equipment had to be shipped up from Memphis to remove the wreck, and since the food and beverage was scheduled to be re-loaded in Memphis, we were stuck without either for 12 hours. To make matters worse, there was a convention of uncouth, loud female bowlers on board, heading to a convention in New Orleans, smoking and slugging beer all night long!

12/25/2009 2:36:28 PM

Not as a passenger, but from a driver: People who have no respect for others, use profanities, let their children run loose, drunks. Well crying babies get to me too, but sometimes that is very difficult to control. Will say one other thing, if you have a driver who is very rude, get the name off the side of the bus (they are not always Greyhound) and write an e/mail, call, or write to the company. They need to know.

rick kennerly
12/25/2009 11:38:27 AM

Worst trip was a winter trip from DC to Boston and back. We had a sleeper stateroom, but it was still a 26-hour ordeal, poor food and shabby service. After all, what kind of operation begins every announcement about how sorry they are for any inconvenience? OTOH, I commuted on the MARC and WDC METRO for years and loved it. Now, with wifi and cell service and plug-ins on the MARC, it would be a great way to extend the work day into the commute. Americans won't say it, but by their actions you can tell they are ready for quality mass transit, tired of driving. On a (rare) commute during Virginia Beach/Norfolk rush hour a couple of weeks ago I saw the following: 2 people reading books or newspapers while driving, half a dozen fixing hair or make-up, 4 fooling with GPS or other dashboard mounted devices, several I suspected were texting or web browsing while behind the wheel, one watching a portable DVD player on the dash, and innumerable people talking on their cell fons. People may want the freedom having an automobile affords, but fewer and fewer actually WANT to drive.

kathryn detoy
12/25/2009 11:33:59 AM

About 10 years ago I took a Amtrak from Chicago to Seattle, stayed a few days, then down to San Francisco, stayed a few days with a sister. Then on to Denver to suprise my brother for his 40th, and back to Chicago. If I was going to be on the train for more than 18 hours, I went with a sleeper. I have to say that I slept and ate very well on the train. It was an very enjoyable trip, but the fact that I had family everywhere I stopped, and they were there to meet me made a big difference. Not all depots are near to other transportation venues, and it can make getting around a bit difficult.

12/25/2009 9:10:13 AM

Back when I was a smoker I had occasion to travel from Boston to New Orleans by train. While most of the cars were the "sit-in-your-own-seat-and-ignore-other-people" type of commuter travel, in the smoker's car it was a lively social experience. There were people from many different walks of life, people eager to participate in the American Idol competitions, travelers for holiday, etc. all packed together and while it was cancerous, it was far more interesting than isolation. I truly wish there were more forms of travel that had us congregating with other travelers and sharing life stories instead of wired into our own iPod universes or cursing out other drivers on the highways...

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