[tabi] Re: Want a problem-free trip? Try the bus

  • From: "William Benjamin" <blindwilly@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2015 14:52:31 -0500

I don't have a problem with busses:  in fact, for the most part I like the
new aminities that busses are offering.  What I have a problem with is the
bathrooms.  They are the worse, even with a 60 miles per hour wind going by
that could be designed to help the smell.  Even tho there is no wind in the
stations, they should be tended to better and that is not a difacult thing
to over come.







From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf
Of Chip Orange
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 8:26 AM
To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [tabi] Want a problem-free trip? Try the bus


from yesterday's USA Today:


Want a problem-free trip? Try the bus

Christopher Elliott , Special for USA TODAY 6:02 p.m. EST January 11, 2015


Despite less federal oversight, bus lines generate far fewer consumer
complaints than airlines.(Photo: Frank Espich, Indianapolis Star)

It's difficult to understate the rarity of Shannon Lee's complaint. It's
almost as unusual as the topic of this story: bus travel.

Lee, an accountant from Pasadena, Md., was part of a group traveling to New
York for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Her friends, Dan and Jacqueline
Childs, who had each paid Megabus $89 for their round-trip bus fare, were
turned away when they tried to board the motorcoach because there wasn't
enough room.

"They've sent numerous e-mails and made phone calls asking Megabus for a
refund," Lee says. "But so far, nothing."

Bus complaints are almost non-existent, at least compared with airlines.
That doesn't make sense, since when it comes to customer service, buses are
lightly regulated by the federal government. The real reason behind this
absence of passenger discontent may hold the key to making other parts of
the travel industry better and more complaint-free.

I receive only a handful of gripes about bus service every year. They're
almost always resolved lightning-fast. So when I contacted Megabus about
Lee's friends, I wasn't surprised to hear back from company spokesman Sean
Hughes almost immediately.

"We're calling them and offering them a full refund and giving them an
apology," he told me.

The more interesting question is why?

How did the decidedly unglamorous bus industry get so attuned to its
customers? Transporting about 80 million passengers a year while keeping
them happy is no small achievement. It may explain the unprecedented
expansion of city-to-city express carriers. They grew 2.1% in 2014, while
the number of flights dropped 3% during the same period, according to new

Part of the secret to the industry's success is the "laid back" culture of
bus travel, says Joe Schwieterman, director of DePaul University's Chaddick
Institute, which will release its study
litan-development/research-and-publications/Pages/default.aspx>  today.

"People can see clearly why delays occur, like traffic or bad weather, so
there is more understanding when things go wrong," he says. Bus travel is
cheaper than other modes of transportation, which affects passenger
expectations. You get exactly what you paid for: scheduled bus carriers have
on-time ratings that exceed 90%, Schwieterman says.

Another thing: If you run a bus company, you can't run away from your
customers. "You know that you have to offer a good product at a fair price,"
says Dan Ronan, a spokesman for the American Bus Association, a trade
association. If you're a passenger on a medium-size bus line, such as C&J,
which offers service between New Hampshire, Boston and New York, it's not
uncommon to see the company's president, Jim Jalbert, in the parking lot.

"If you have a service problem, he's right there, and you can tell him about
it," Ronan says.

Surprisingly, the government isn't forcing buses to do the right thing. The
U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration, which oversees the motorcoach industry, is primarily focused
on safety issues. In 2013, it conducted almost 40,000 bus inspections and
shut down more than 100 unsafe bus companies. The department issued rules
that required lap and shoulder seat belts for each passenger and driver seat
on new motorcoaches and other large buses. It ordered improvements on the
structural design of large buses, so passengers are better protected in the
event of a rollover crash.

For interstate bus carriers, federal law is largely silent on service
questions, addressing disability access, compensation for lost luggage and
ticket sales. That's a dramatic contrast to the commercial aviation
industry, which is practically stalked by the DOT with rules and
regulations. Apart from the marked differences in service culture between
the motorcoach and airline industries, it's a function of the mode of
transportation, experts say.

"It's a bus," says Gabe Klein, a former commissioner for Chicago's
Department of Transportation and an expert on bus travel. "There are less
opportunities for things to go wrong."

Still, a bus, like a plane, transports you from point A to point B. Why do
buses not need the heavy hand of government to tell them what to do? Simple,
industry watchers says. "There's more competition," says Robert Turner, a
bus industry consultant in San Diego. There are hundreds of bus operators in
the USA, compared with three monopolistic airlines, so a bus line can't
afford to offer bad service.

As airlines embrace bizarre five-class configurations that promise to make
air travel even more unbearable for all but a privileged few, many
passengers refer to planes as "buses with wings." That's meant as an insult
to airlines, but it actually offends the bus industry. The newest
motorcoaches don't just have government-mandated seat belts. They also come
with bigger seats, onboard entertainment, wireless Internet connections and
galley kitchens where you can microwave your dinner on the way home.

Buses can offer better customer service than airlines in almost every way.
Competition made them do it. Maybe we need more of that.

How to get better bus service

Complain directly to the company. Most customer-service problems can be
resolved quickly and in real time. Lost baggage is usually found quickly,
and ticket refunds are processed fast. Larger bus lines have websites where
they accept complaints, but it rarely gets to that point.

Reference federal law. Regulations are brief. For example, the DOT
guidelines on ticketing are covered in five short bullet points on one
webpage <http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/374.305> .

Switch to a competitor. Motorcoach operators are flourishing in the USA, so
there are many competing bus lines that would be happy to have your
business. Don't waste your time with a bus company that doesn't appreciate
your patronage - if you can even find one.

READ MORE: AMTRAK, bus lines more comfortable than airlines



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