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Pros and Cons of Bus Travel

If you’re considering a Greyhound bus trip, here are some things you’ll need to know.

Pros:

  • You can request a 5% senior discount on regular fares (10% on Greyhound Canada).
  • Greyhound offers $29 - $129 one-way midweek fares with 14-day advance purchase; fares are based on miles traveled.
  • You can reserve your tickets ahead or purchase them up to one hour before the bus departs.
  • Greyhound will provide assistance to disabled passengers with 48-hours’ advance notice.
  • Fares between New York and other large East Coast cities are comparable to those offered by “curbside” or “Chinatown” buses, if you buy advance tickets online.

Cons:

  • Greyhound stations tend to be in less-than-savory downtown locations. If you need to change buses, try to schedule your layovers during daylight hours.
  • Even if you reserve a ticket in advance, you’re not guaranteed a seat. Greyhound operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Holiday weekends are especially busy.
  • Stations may not have any food available, or may have vending machines only.
  • You may need to transfer between buses. If so, you’ll have to carry your own luggage.
  • Not all Greyhound buses have wheelchair lifts, although many do.
  • If a disabled passenger boards the bus and all the handicapped seats are occupied, the driver will ask non-disabled passengers in those seats to move. Greyhound’s policy states, “If the person occupying the seat refuses, he or she cannot be forced to move. You may sit in the next available seat and move to the designated seats as they become available.”
  • If your bus is late, Greyhound will not give you a refund.

One-Day Tours
You can take a one-day bus tour to an event or popular sightseeing destination, such as a show at New York’s Radio City Music Hall or to Rome at night. Traveling by bus relieves you of the need to plan routes and find parking garages. One-day bus tours can help you find your bearings in a new city; once you learn the locations of the major roads and landmarks, you’ll be able to use public transportation more confidently if you wish.

Overnight Tours
Many tour operators conduct one- or two-week motor-coach tours. You can visit American and Canadian national parks, see colorful fall foliage, or explore other countries, all without worrying about renting cars, buying gas or dealing with mechanics. You’ll usually have a tour guide, who will solve problems, keep everyone on schedule and tell you about each place you visit.

Choosing a Bus or Motor-coach Tour
If you’re thinking about a bus tour, the best way to find one that meets your needs and expectations is to ask around. Talk with a travel agent and ask for recommendations. Ask family members and friends if they have taken bus tours or know someone who has.

Here are some questions to ask before you book a bus or motor-coach tour.

•How long will I be on the bus each day?
•Will I have to change seats every day?
•Will we be able to explore when we stop, or will we only have a “photo opportunity” at each stop?
•What is the average age of the people who take this tour?
•Are children allowed?
•Will we have any free days or afternoons?
•Will we change buses, or can I safely leave personal items on the bus while we sightsee?
•How many people will be on the tour?
•May I bring a wheelchair? Where will it be stored?
Bear in mind that you’ll only be able to bring one carry-on item onto the bus; the rest of your luggage will be stored in the baggage compartments. You may be asked to change seats every day (“seat rotation”) in order to meet more of your fellow travelers. Expect to be discouraged from using the restroom on your bus; it’s meant for emergencies only.

Disability Issues
If you use a wheelchair or walker, you’ll need to find out where it’s stowed and how easy it will be for the driver to get it out at each stop. In many countries around the world, motorcoaches and tour buses don’t have wheelchair lifts. Some tour operators flatly state that they will not provide assistance for people with disabilities; they advise disabled travelers to bring along able-bodied companions who can lift or otherwise help them.

You should also ask how long you’ll stop at each destination, sight or museum. Many travelers head for the restrooms as soon as they leave the bus. If you have to wait for your wheelchair or if you walk slowly, you may spend all your “sightseeing” time getting to and from the restrooms unless your itinerary includes a reasonable amount of time for comfort stops.

The Fine Print
Carefully read every word of your trip brochure and tour information before you pay for your tour. Overbooking, disability assistance and cancellation policies should be spelled out in detail. Insist on getting information about these topics in writing. If possible, pay for your trip with a credit card; you may be able to dispute the charges later if your tour operator fails to deliver what the brochure promises. Consider purchasing travel insurance to protect your investment.

Some senior travelers swear by bus travel. Others shudder at the thought. With gasoline prices climbing, bus travel is certainly an affordable alternative. For long-distance travelers in the United States and Canada, Greyhound Lines, which connects major cities from coast to coast, offers the largest choice of destinations and departures.

There are several advantages to bus travel. You don’t have to rent a car or pay big-city parking fees. You avoid the stress of driving in unfamiliar places during rush hour. Best of all, you’ll often pay less to “go Greyhound” than you will to fly or take the train.

For example, a one-way Amtrak ticket between Baltimore and New York City costs anywhere from $61 to $160, depending on how far in advance you reserve your ticket. Greyhound’s standard senior fare is $55 one way, and you can travel for $25 - $34 one way if you book online in advance. (Airfares start at $59 - that's a Southwest Airlines "Wanna Get Away" fare - and go up from there.)

Bus Travel Facts
•Some buses stop only once or twice between the departure and destination cities. Other routes include several intermediate stops.

•Buses usually have a restroom on board. It’s meant for emergency use only.

•All types of people travel by bus. This could include parents with small children or people who are ill.

•Your route may include one or more layovers, which can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour or longer.

OVERVIEW OF REPORTING AND OTHER ADA REQUIREMENTS
FOR OVER-THE-ROAD BUS COMPANIES

This document provides information about the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) reporting and other requirements for over-the-road buses (OTRBs) under its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. Because the information below provides only a summary, DOT's actual ADA regulations regarding reporting and other ADA-mandated requirements should be reviewed for specific legal requirements (see 49 CFR part 37, subpart H).   In general, DOT's ADA regulations require accessible, timely OTRB service for passengers with disabilities, including wheelchair users.

I. ADA REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR OTRB COMPANIES

DOT's ADA reporting regulations require OTRB companies to submit three types of reports annually by the last Monday of every October. Each annual report covers the time period from October 1 of the prior calendar year through September 30 of the current calendar year. The following describes these three reports and the types of OTRB companies required to submit them:

    A. Annual Summary Report of Individual Accessible/Equivalent Service Requests and Responses/Service Provided

    OTRB companies must submit a summary of all individual requests they receive for accessible and/or equivalent service in each 12-month reporting period. These annual summary reports must contain the following data:

    1. Company's name
    2. Company's address
    3. Company's telephone number
    4. Contact person name for the company
    5. The number of requests for accessible and/or equivalent service made during the time period from October 1 of the prior calendar year through September 30 of the calendar year when the report is submitted
    6. The number of times that a request for an accessible bus was satisfied or equivalent service was provided

    Small and large OTRB companies have differing obligations when responding to requests for accessible buses and/or equivalent service. Equivalent service is an option for only small fixed route OTRB companies. Please refer to Section III for a summary of these requirements.

    Please refer to Section II for a description of Individual Accessible/Equivalent Service Requests, as well as the responsibilities OTRB companies have to document, process, and maintain such requests under DOT's ADA regulations.

    B. Fixed Route OTRB Company's Annual Lift Use Summary

    Large and small fixed route OTRB companies must submit an annual report that summarizes the number of passengers with disabilities who used the lift to board accessible buses in a given 12-month reporting period. Demand-responsive and mixed service OTRB companies are not required to submit this report.

    C. Annual Report of OTRBs Purchased/Leased and Overall Fleet Data

    OTRB companies must submit acquisition and lease data to the DOT annually. These annual reports should contain the following data:

    1. Company's name
    2. Company's address
    3. Company's telephone number
    4. Contact person name for the company
    5. Total number of buses in the company's fleet
    6. Total number of accessible buses in the company's fleet
    7. The number of new and used buses purchased or leased during the time period from October 1 of the prior calendar year through September 30 of the calendar year when the report is submitted
    8. Number of new accessible buses purchased during the time period
    9. Number of used accessible buses purchased during the time period
    10. Number of new accessible buses leased during the time period
    11. Number of used accessible buses leased during the time period

    D. Mailing Address

    The mailing address to which all reports must be sent is as follows:

    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
    Office of Information Management MC-RIS
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC 20590

II. SERVICE REQUEST RECORDKEEPING

All OTRB companies are required to document all individual requests for accessible or equivalent service they receive. Each request must be documented in a manner that records the following information:

  1. Company's name
  2. Company's address
  3. Company's telephone number
  4. Passenger's name
  5. Passenger's address
  6. Passenger's telephone number
  7. Scheduled date(s) and time(s) of trip(s)
  8. Date and time of request
  9. Location(s) of need for accessible bus or equivalent service, as applicable
  10. Was accessible bus or equivalent service, as applicable, provided for trip(s)? Yes/No
  11. Was there a basis recognized by U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for not providing an accessible bus or equivalent service, as applicable, for the trip(s)? Yes/No If yes, explain

OTRB companies must provide a copy of the completed Service Request Form to the passenger and retain a copy for five years.

III. EQUIPMENT AND SERVICE REQUIREMENTS

    A. Fixed Route Companies

    A fixed route OTRB company must ensure that: (1) each new OTRB purchased or leased is accessible; (2) half of the company's fleet consists of accessible buses by October 2006; and (3) the entire fleet consists of accessible buses by October 2012. Until the fleet of a fixed route OTRB company becomes fully accessible, it must provide accessible OTRB service to passengers with disabilities on a 48-hour advance notice basis.

    B. Demand Responsive and Mixed Companies

    A demand responsive OTRB company must provide service in an accessible bus to passengers with disabilities on a 48-hour advance notice basis.

    OTRB companies that provide mixed service must meet the requirements for both fixed route and demand responsive segments of their service.

    C. Alternatives for Small Companies

    1. Small Fixed Route Companies

    Small fixed route OTRB companies, as an alternative to the general rule, may choose to (1) ensure each new OTRB purchased is accessible or (2) provide equivalent service to passengers with disabilities. There is no deadline by which part or all of the bus fleet must be accessible. Until their fleets become fully accessible, small fixed route OTRB companies must either (1) provide service in an accessible bus to passengers with disabilities on a 48-hour advance notice basis or (2) provide equivalent service.

    2. Small Demand Responsive Companies

    Small demand responsive OTRB companies must provide accessible service to passengers with disabilities on a 48-hour advance notice basis. However, such companies are not required to fundamentally alter reservation practices or displace other passengers in order to meet these requirements.

    3. Small Mixed Service Companies

    Small mixed service OTRB companies can meet the alternatives to the general rule for both small fixed route OTRB companies and small demand responsive OTRB companies by providing accessible service within 48 hours. Doing so allows such companies to comply with one set of requirements for all provided services.

IV. GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The following provides a basic glossary of terms used by DOT's ADA regulations:

Accessible Bus. An accessible bus or accessible OTRB is a bus that includes a lift for getting passengers who cannot climb steps onto a bus, specific locations for securing the wheelchair to prevent it from sliding, and other features to ease travel for passengers with disabilities.

Demand Responsive Service. An OTRB company provides demand responsive service if it provides transportation to individuals via OTRB through a charter/tour system.

Equivalent Service. Equivalent service is service provided to passengers with disabilities that is as good as the type of service provided to passengers without disabilities (e.g., a different accessible vehicle is used to provide service to the same traveling points for the same cost within the same time frame as a regularly scheduled OTRB). Equivalent service requires that passengers be allowed to travel in their own wheelchairs.

Fixed Route Service. An OTRB company provides fixed route service if it provides transportation in which the OTRB is operated along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule.

Large Operator. Under DOT's regulatory definition, a large operator or large OTRB company has gross annual transportation revenues equal to or exceeding $8.7 million.

Mixed Service. An OTRB company provides mixed service if it provides both fixed route and demand responsive service, and 25 percent or less of its OTRB fleet is used in fixed route service.

OTRB. An OTRB is a bus characterized by an elevated passenger deck over a baggage compartment.

Small Operator. Under DOT's regulatory definition, a small operator or small OTRB company has gross annual transportation revenues less than $8.7 million.

 

 

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