There’s a lot of interest these days in constructing intercity rail along the Front Range and into the mountains. The proposals to do so are exciting, and if built would have tremendous benefits for Colorado’s cities.
But if you want to travel around the state without a private car, there already exists today an option to do so. It’s slower than a train would be, less comfortable than a train would be, doesn’t offer the sort of economic benefits to central cities that a train would, and is all around inferior to just about any potential train option – which is why not many people use it. But it is there, on the ground right now, available for use by anyone who cares to do so.
I’m talking about Greyhound, which runs buses to 52 destinations in Colorado alone – just about every populated place in the state. Here’s a map of Greyhound lines in Colorado. Click the image to download the full national map.
The different colors indicate whether routes are operated by Greyhound itself or a contracting service.
There are two reasons I do not and will not ride a Greyhound for the foreseeable future. First, on my many trips over I-70 in the winter, I have yet to see a single Greyhound bus using chains when they are required and as a result I have seen many stuck and impeding traffic. Second, my last experience riding one between GJT and DEN in summer of 2008, the bus was in bad condition, the driver was inexperienced in operating large vehicles, and the atmosphere was unpleasant due to smell and some of the people on board. Until issues like this are resolved, I will not partake of their services. I am not sure of others experiences on them.
My car broke down a few years ago in Richfield Utah and I had to take the Greyhound back to Denver. It was one of the most unpleasant 12+ hours of my life. The bus was dirty, smelly, and the people on it made it look like a casting call for a meth prevention commercial. Truly an awful experience.
I spend a lot of time in Latin America, and long bus rides there are actually kind of a treat. The buses are in good condition, are fast, serve drinks and snacks, and even show movies – I couldn’t stop laughing watching Weekend at Bernie’s in Spanish on the ride between Mexico City and Veracruz. The cheaper regional buses are still in decent shape, and they feel like a social event with food hawkers getting on and off in villages.
You can easily get pretty much anywhere you want south of the border on a bus. Its a bit sad that we have a long way to go to catch up to the transit systems of Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, etc.
I think you’d see more people riding Greyhound if there wasn’t such a strong stigma against riding the bus. Unfortunately, only high gasoline/energy prices will get more people riding routes like this.
There wouldn’t be such a strong stigma against riding the bus if Greyhound had competitors in the West. In the Northeast, many people (including professionals) regularly ride the bus to and from destinations such as DC, Philly, and NYC due to the existence of companies which offer wi-fi and clean, comfortable buses. Of course, factors such as distance and population probably prevent companies from offering similar inter-city services as they do in the Northeast.
Definitely. It’s completely normal for upper middle class people to take the bus between cities in the northeast.
While Greyhound my be largely unknown to the general populous, very few know about the bus lines providing service to/from Mexico, border towns, and across the southwestern US, which largely serve the immigrant populations from Mexico and central America. The bus ride involves very little spoken english. The most notable bus line in Denver is El Paso – Los Angeles Limousine Express, going by the trade name ‘Los Limousines’. They recently constructed a new bus terminal at 22nd & California in the Arapahoe Square neighborhood. Book your trip now at http://www.eplalimo.com/
Since when is Aurora south of Denver? This map could use some help. I didn’t know I-25 went through Aurora.
I think the most viable rail corridor has got to be I-70.
Greyhound is still affected by weather delays, tunnel closings/metering – a train would solve some of that. Each Ski resort could have a station along the tracks where bus service could connect the town with the train station. Frisco serves Breck, Vail is along the tracks, etc.
According to the rocky mountain rail authority the largest projected passenger load and one of the cheapest routes to construct would be from CO Springs to Denver CBD to DIA. This route would provide more consistent demand as it would bypass daily congestion and connect two populated cities and the largest airport in the area. Also they could build a higher speed train more cheaply on flatter terrain. The mountain route is needed and would be a benefit but it is costly (10-20 billion depending on who you ask and their definition of high speed) and would be hard to justify that cost without proving it could be done elsewhere.
On the other hand the difference between the I-25 south corridor and the I 70 mountain corridor is the cost in adding additional lanes of traffic. So it’s tough to say which one should be done first if we could sell the state of Colorado (or at least those potentially served by this train) to foot the bill without doing a proof of concept in a potentially more successful corridor than maybe that should be done first as we are running out of options on I70.
Or maybe we should start a bus service first to help short term (greyhound schedule and drop off points are not ski industry oriented) then construct the train to the Springs see how that goes and if successful try it in the mountains.
Either way I am glad I am not making the decisions on what to present to the voters as this stuff is not easy.
Comparing Greyhound to trains here isn’t the issue. People don’t ride the bus because most of the time a car is “cheaper” (in short term numbers, anyway), faster, more direct, cleaner, more comfortable and in most people’s minds “more fun.”
Let Greyhound get me their at least close to the amount of time it would take for me to get there in a car, at a cheaper price (especially for multiple passengers), and with better ventilation as someone earlier has mentioned. Throw in some amenities…a snack bag or something like it, and now we’ve got a reason to ride what is an otherwise unpleasant mode of transportation. The only thing it has going for it right now is that I don’t have to do the driving.
I’m a big fan of multiple modes of transit, and I wish buses were more highly regarded due to their short term low cost, but they are not. That’s why trains are so popular right now.
I’ve ridden Greyhound several times in the last few years. It’s actually a very efficient and affordable service is Colorado and I don’t feel at all that it was unsafe or dirty. In fact, I’d say my Greyhound experience in Colorado was better than those out east (for some reason Greyhound stations out there seem to be in the worst, most crime-ridden neighborhoods.) I’ve never taken Greyhound to the mountain towns, but I have gone many time to Trinidad, Raton, Santa Fe and Albuquerque and have found the experience to be just fine. The trips down south were all within reasonable and similar times as trips done in a car (Maybe an hour more at most), except for one trip back from Santa Fe that went through Taos and Alamosa instead of I-25 (but that was my own fault for not reading the tickets properly and I still didn’t mind it too much because the scenery was so beautiful).
Shouldn’t really be a stigma to riding Greyhound at all.
Greyhound isn’t the only intercity bus service in the state either. There is regular commercial bus service from DIA to the ski resorts via I-70. There is FREX, a commuter service from downtown Denver to Colorado Springs and back. There is a similar service on I-25 North of Denver. There is commercial bus service from downtown Denver to Mexico. There are the regional routes of RTD and the are a number of intracity public transit systems (Telluride famously has a gondola connecting the city and mountain village and transit in the resort areas is generally good).
Bus service in the I-70 corridor is actually faster than train service on Amtrak to the same destinations, in addition to being cheaper and less heavily subsidized.
The case for high speed rail as an intermediate option between buses and air travel is pretty good, especially on the Front Range from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs where the population density is highest and the cost of construction is pretty low. But, the case for existing low speed Amtrak rail as an alternative to bus service is pretty weak in Colorado, and the comparison doesn’t improve in longer trips where rail is virtually untenable for anyone who wants to get from point A to point B as opposed to making the experience of the trip itself the main purpose of the trip.
Frankly I don’t even think it’s high speed rail we need. Just a normal rail line that can average 80 – 120 mph (hardly high speed by some other country’s standards.) That would be fast enough to, at a minimum, match highway speeds if not exceed them and do so in comfort. High speed rail is expensive, particularly when it meets steep grades. I’d love to have it, no doubt, but I’d hate for an argument about whether or not to have rail come down to “expensive high speed rail” on one side and the “welfare choo choo haters” on the other.