Greyhound: You Won’t Be Home For Christmas

12/23/2008 01:58:00 AM

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OriginalThere is a problem in mass transportation, specifically, the bus industry.  The bus industry has very little regulation.  To drive an 18-wheeler one must get a CDL, or Class-A license, must pass a physical every 2 years, and is heavily regulated via the DOT in the number of hours they can drive and are limited to 72,000 pounds between their rig, trailer and the contents of the trailer. 

In the bus industry, it is a combination between simply driving people around giving them rides without fare, a Class-C license, and a Class-A license, which is considered a commercial license.  Bus drivers only need a Class-B license, no matter the number of the riders.  And, they have no regulations like the airline industry.  If a bus is cancelled due to the weather, you are on your own to fed for yourself for lodging and food.  If you lose your baggage on a bus, according to federal laws, the bus line only reimburses you up to $250 max, at their discretion upon submitting a report.

If the DOT kept track of on times and delays with Greyhound like the FAA does with airlines, Greyhound would be well…. in a lot of trouble needless to say.

I have my own personal horror story with Greyhound, and Ill convey it to you after the current story.

Due to the weather conditions in Seattle on Sunday, Greyhound decided to kick 60 riders who had been waiting at least two nights at the station out of the station, saying they had made arrangements for the riders to stay at a shelter.  When they got there, they were told the shelter was full, leaving them abandoned in 25 degree weather.

seattle_drop_3_-_456 First, on Sunday night, Greyhound passengers, many of whom had been at the downtown Seattle station at least two nights, said they were told by Greyhound staff that they had to leave because the company had run out of food and water at the terminal.

They were feeding us two meals a day, trying to do the best they can, and they said they were going to put us in a shelter because buses were going to be down for the next couple of days,” a woman stated, adding that Greyhound officials promised to pick them back up as soon as the buses were running again.

Passengers were told Greyhound had found someplace better for them to stay, and they were bused to the Seattle Center emergency center, a homeless shelter.  A Greyhound passenger said that Greyhound, “told us that people would be expecting us.  We would have our own space with a bed and pillows and [services].”

The Greyhound bus dropped the people off at the shelter and advised them again they could stay there. 

The shelter “opened the doors for the homeless people at 9 [p.m.], but not for us.  They told us we couldn’t go in,” an abandoned Greyhound rider said.   Another abandoned rider said, “We got here, and they didn't know we were coming.  I can’t believe they did this!”

Unfortunately, the shelter at the Seattle Center turned the passengers away because the shelter does not take children.  Stacy Howard, a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army, said staff members had to turn away passengers because they were following protocol that calls for men to be sheltered separately from women and children.

That left families, kids and at least one pregnant woman outside on the Seattle Center property in sub-freezing temperatures Sunday night.

Another rider stated, “They said there was going to be beds, cots for us and blankets, and then they just kind of dropped us off here and apparently Salvation Army doesn’t know anything about what’s going on.”

So 60 men, women, and children weren’t allowed into the shelter.  The Greyhound bus that was used to bring the passengers to the shelter was still there when the group was told they would not be allowed in the shelter with their kids, but the driver drove away.

Eric Wesley, a spokesman for Greyhound, told KOMO/4 that Seattle police told them they could take the passengers to the shelter, and passengers had the option to stay at the Greyhound station, which is near the West Precinct contradicting what the stranded passengers said.

081221_Greyhound_center Seattle police spokesman Renee Witt told KOMO/4 a lieutenant was contacted by Greyhound, and a police lieutenant made arrangements with the shelter to take some of the stranded passengers, but because the shelter could not accept children they had to turn the group away when they arrived.

Meanwhile, around 9:48 p.m., 911 received a call involving 60 people outside the Pavilion Shelter, at the Seattle Center.  The caller relayed the story to 911 and police responded to the Greyhound bus station, only to find it closed.

At the Seattle Center, riders were left wondering where they would go and were frustrated with the lack of communication.  A police officer addressed the crowed at the scene saying, “I went to the Greyhound station, and it’s locked down.  I couldn’t get answers.”

The Seattle Police Department had to step in to help the passengers who were abandoned by Greyhound to find shelter.  The officers then responded to the Seattle Center, and with the assistance from the Seattle Police Communications, found available shelters. 

Three families with young children were transported to the YWCA.  The rest of the displaced individuals (about 40) were taken to “DESC” at 517 3rd Avenue.

Metro or Greyhound were not available to assist with the transportation, so all transports were completed by patrol and West Anti Crime Team. 

They were all in shelters, 1 1/2 hours after the original call. Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said the riders were picked up and taken to the Greyhound terminal Monday morning.

A Greyhound spokesman told the Seattle PI that the company has no plans to issue refunds to any of their passengers, although they will allow them to sleep in “heated buses” until they’re allowed to depart again.

As of Monday, Greyhound spokesman Wesley said no buses were rolling in or out of Seattle because the company did not want to endanger passengers on icy roads.  Wesley said more than 100 stranded passengers were sent to three homeless shelters or allowed to stay at the station.

In a light of good news, a catered meal by FareStart was called in by the Seattle Police Department.  The menu included halibut, chicken penne, grilled asparagus, salad and cheese and fruit plates.

And KIRO radio put out a call for drivers headed to Portland who were willing to take stranded drivers.


Meanwhile in Salt Lake City, dozens of Greyhound passengers, estimated around 50, headed to WA and OR are stranded at the SLC terminal.  By Monday, several passengers are called the “five-dayers” since the arrived at SLC last Thursday.

We can’t keep on like this,” said a woman, who left Tampa FL, to resettle into Portland, saying people have slept for days in the corners of the public terminal and the closest thing to a shower was the bathroom sink.

Some said Sunday they have been there for several days, sleeping on the floor and getting food from homeless charities.  Many can’t afford to pay for a hotel room or go out to eat.

On rider says he thinks Greyhound never should have sold him a ticket in the first place.  “The road was already closed when they sold me a ticket,” he said.  “They knew.  They knew the buses couldn’t get out.”  The bus terminal manager told KUTV off camera the reason Greyhound sold the person a ticket to Portland, and continues to sell tickets to cities buses can’t currently travel to is because unlike an airline, Greyhound doesn’t have a reservation system, meaning the bus tickets can be used today, or a year from today, whenever the bus can travel there.  The tickets however, are non-refundable.

Since the media coverage, the five-dayers said an anonymous donor paid for 20 rooms at a motel for Sunday night, hamburgers and french fries were donated, and several people have brought toys, children’s books and food.

When Kathryn Jenson learned there were soldiers stranded, she took her laptop to the terminal and started buying plane tickets with the extra money she had in "Let’s Fly Em Home.”  The charity buys airfare for needy soldiers.  Thanks to her efforts, about 17 enlistees left the terminal.

Until there was media attention on their situation Sunday, several travelers say the company did little.  That night, Greyhound brought them pizza said spokeswoman Wambuagh.  “We do everything within the resources we have to assist our customers,” she said though she was unaware of similar situations in the past. 

She said Greyhound’s policy is to provide what the terminal can, as well as work with the Red Cross.  She said she was unable to reach the SLC Red Cross earlier, but called the organization on Monday, requesting 50 cots.

Wambaugh added that the Greyhound passengers do not usually get hotel vouchers during weather delays, but the company provides them a “warm, safe place to say,” she said, indicating the SLC bus terminal. [I guess that doesn’t apply in Seattle, eh?]

She also said that people had been waiting up to three days at the terminal, contradicting passenger stories, because of closures on Interstate 84 heading to the Northwest.  There, Wambuagh said, the company has provided food vouchers.

According to the travelers in SLC, those “food vouchers” haven’t been seen, saying all they’ve been given is occasional pizzas.  “Pizza is another means we consider of giving them food,” Wambaugh said.

Also, the company is offering to return people in SLC to where they started for free, unlike the stranded travelers in Seattle.


Last Friday, Greyhound began cancelling service north of Sacramento as road conditions north of Eugene, Oregon became to dangerous.  Many people are still stranded at that terminal.

There obviously Greyhound is not helping those passengers, as one  couple stated they were running out of money to buy food.

Sunday night, Greyhound began offering Sacramento travelers free rides back home.  The Red Cross began distributing blankets.

Monday morning Greyhound allowed Sacramento passengers to board a bus to Eugene, OR.  But Wambaugh said, “Once they get there they’ll have to stay.  We don’t know when the’ll be able to get out of there because of the road situation.”

Weary stranded travelers were happy when a man showed up at the terminal with food however, once the man tried to bring the food in for the people, a restaurant manager threw him out of the terminal.

Most have been told to not expect to get a bus out of the terminal until Christmas.


Now I understand that the weather is causing the delays with Greyhound however, I’m pretty sure that the travelers lives are miserable between the delays and the way Greyhound handles things.

Several years back I had to take a bus from Jacksonville, NC to Las Vegas, NV on short notice and knew that my car would never make it.  I threw around the idea of renting a car however between the cost of renting the car and hotels, I began to look at airlines.  Once seeing their price for a one way ticket, I looked at trains and that was inaccessible.  So I looked at bus fares, which I was somewhere between $172 and $198 and decided to leave the driving to someone else.  I’d never been on a bus before and was up for the adventure.  I wish I had spoken to other people of their experiences with Greyhound before deciding on a bus.

The bus was suppose to leave on a Friday at 6:10 pm from Jacksonville, NC and arrive in Las Vegas, NV on Monday at 6:35am.  All I have to say is.. never again.

As soon as I got to the terminal, I knew I had problems.  First the bus was to arrive at 6:10 pm, but did not show up until nearly 6:45.  The driver hurried and pushed us on to the bus, and then he set the rules.  No one talking on cell phones or he would kick them off the bus.  If someone had headphones on, and he could hear the music as he walked by, he would kick them off the bus.

Needless to say, once we arrived in Raleigh we were suppose to transfer buses however, because our bus was late, we missed that bus.  It took about 30 minutes, but the called a driver in and made arrangements for us to get to Charlotte, NC.  This driver didn’t even have on any kind of uniform for Greyhound, and was wearing street clothes, and he drove like a maniac, nearly pushing a car off the road while changing lanes.

Of course we arrived in Charlotte, NC late, and the bus had left.  More than 40 of us stood around wondering what to do.  Me being the brave person, decided to ask what was going on.  The girl at the counter had no idea what I was talking about and said I had missed my bus and would have to wait 24 hours for the next bus.  I informed her that there were more than 40 people waiting, and we would all have to wait 24 hours?  She said hold on and yelled across the terminal to a man.  The man came up and I asked him the same.  He immediately gave me attitude and told me that if I didn’t stop asking questions about having to wait 24 hours for a bus, that he would kick me out of the terminal.  I immediately looked at his badge and reached for a pen and paper in my laptop bag.  I said “Your name is…..” and he immediately covered his badge up and said he didn’t work for Greyhound.

About 45 minutes later, while all of us are wondering what to do with no one telling us anything, there is an announcement that there will be a bus leaving for Charlotte in 15 minutes.  We all line up and as I hand my ticket to that same man that gave me attitude, I say to him “Thank you very much, you have a great evening”.  The man looked at me and yelled “You better get on that bus right now or I’ll kick you off and you’ll be left here waiting for 24 hours for the next bus.” 

This driver was a rather nice driver.  He was very well dressed in his uniform.  And he drove us safely through the night to Atlanta, GA and I felt that the worst of times was behind me.  Little did I know.

We arrived in Atlanta, GA late of course and the terminal was standing room only.  As picked up my luggage, I learned that I could “pre check” luggage for my next bus, which I did and I was glad to not have to lug around two bags, leaving me with my laptop bag and a backpack with my makeup, books, disks, personal information, you know, like what a woman would have in her purse.  My next bus was to go from Atlanta, GA to Dallas, TX.

As I entered the terminal, lines were already lined up at every gate clear to the far wall.  A girl and I had paired up and took turns waiting in line for what seemed like hours.  Our bus had left at 9:25 am, and here it was just after 10.  I don’t remember the exact time the next bus left but it seemed like it was around 2pm in the afternoon.  Two pm came and went, and then 2:30 and then 2:45 and finally they called the gate.  Needless to say, they overbooked and we were not allowed on the bus. 

I remembered immediately that my luggage was on the bus to Dallas and hurried to customer service asking them what to do.  The woman told me to not worry about it, that if my luggage wasn’t there when I got there, it would be because it got forwarded to my final destination but if I asked to get it off the bus, it wouldn’t happen as they weren’t going to take all the luggage off the bus just for me, and then repack it.

So we waited… and went across the street to this little convenience store, all the while hoping that I wouldn’t get shot, solicited, or approached since the Atlanta terminal isn’t in the best neighborhood.  While there, I learned of someone getting mugged on the other side of the terminal building.  It wasn’t a fun place.

We finally learned that we could get a bus out of Atlanta if we didn’t want to wait another 24 hours however, it was not going to Dallas.  It was going to Nashville, TN.  We both said fine and managed to be one of the first 10 in line.  My trip was now going off my own personal map. 

I don't’ remember much of the ride to Nashville as I think I finally slept for the first time on that bus.  I do remember we got into Nashville around midnight.  While there, we were harassed by the Nashville PD asking to see our tickets accusing us of being homeless people.  I wanted to say to the PD, excuse me, but do homeless people wear Izod, and Ralph Lauren?  As we waited in line, the PD started yelling to everyone, “If you have any drugs or weapons in your bags, you better pull them out now, because we are going to find them” and began doing random searches on people, which is a Constitutional violation.  Our next stop?  St. Louis, MO.

I don’t remember much of this trip either as I again tried to sleep.  We arrived that morning at St. Louis to what could only be described as a building that looked as if it was right out of the 1800s, and it was packed like a cattle pen.  Some people had been waiting there for 24 hours out of the terminal, especially for our bus, which the entire queue area was full.  There was nearly a riot here where people who had been waiting for the bus were arguing with the people who had just gotten in line.  It was a very, VERY interesting time, where about 30 people nearly began fighting with each other and was definitely NOT a safe situation.   But yet the few security that were there were laughing, and making jokes while pointing fingers at people. 

There must have been at least 300 people in this small terminal, and only one person working at the food counter.  And was rather disappointed when I asked for an egg sandwich and was told they were out of eggs.  So I asked for something else, now I can’t remember what, and she said it would take 20 minutes to fix.  So I said just coffee, she said sorry were out.  So I asked for bottled water.  Sorry…. try again.  I said forget it.

Greyhound finally must have noticed that all the passengers for the bus to Denver were a little “upset” and did a smart thing.  They brought out two busses to take us all, and let me tell you, I still think some people had to be left behind.  So off to Denver we go.

I don’t know what time we arrived in Denver anymore, but it was night but this was to be my last leg to Las Vegas.  I don’t remember much here other than when we got on the bus, the driver got lost because he didn’t know how to get to the Interstate, and a rider had to tell him the directions……

Once where were down off the mountain that driver got off the bus and another driver got on.  This guy was a total maniac.  He nearly took out several cars during this leg of the trip, and also got pulled over for speeding, and he did get a ticket.  And he left approximately 10 people behind on one stop.  We yelled at him to stop that people were running after the bus, but he did not stop.  I do not know what happened to them.

We finally arrived in Las Vegas, but not at 6:35 am on Monday, but on Tuesday at 2:00pm in the afternoon.  I immediately got off the bus and headed to check about my baggage.  It wasn’t there.  So here I am in Vegas wearing the same clothes I had put on Friday with no clothes to change into, nothing but my laptop bag, makeup, personal items and that was it.

I called Greyhound on Wednesday and my luggage still wasn’t there.  Finally on Thursday, it was there and I went downtown to pick it up.  I knew immediately I was in trouble.  My luggage had holes in it, the handles broken, zippers were busted, and I was missing quite a lot of items, including a leather jacket.  Total in all, I lost nearly $1,000 worth of items out of my luggage and my actual luggage containers themselves.  I filed a claim only to learn the max according to Greyhound was $250.  It was over a month later I received a check.

During this entire time there were similarities I noticed about Greyhound the entire way.  First, most drivers are unprofessional, rude, sexist and extremely unsafe.  Second, the actual bus itself is not in the best shape and most were dirty inside, including one where the toilet was overflowing.  Third, Greyhound overbooks all the time.  Most everyone I talked to along the way, and I talked to ALOT of people since we had nothing to do but wait since the buses were late or overbooked, is that most had their entire trip plans changed either from routing changes or having to actually wait anywhere from 4 to 48 hours for a bus.  Most Greyhound bus stations are NOT in the safest areas of town with most of them being filthy, and the bathrooms leaving a port-a-potty to be desired instead.  And most employees are either lazy and/or rude.  I also noticed while I was in Charlotte and Atlanta employees in “secluded areas” smoking pot.  How do I know they were Greyhound employees?  Simply, they were wearing uniforms.

My luggage was trashed an unusable at the end of the trip and I will honestly say that Greyhound employees are thieves.  Why do I say this?  Because the locks were broken on my luggage, and you could see were they used something sharp to cut open the luggage around the zipper.  I hope whoever got all my “stuff” thoroughly enjoyed them.

But yet, I feel lucky because I did arrive safe, although I don’t know how, and I arrived only 1 day later than I should have.  Never again though.  Next time I am in a situation where I need to take a long trip due on a short notice, I will spend the extra $150.00 to take a airline and forget leaving the driving to someone else.



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