Back in February, the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA) received notification from Change.org that they were initiating a petition to protest the treatment of Greyhound bus passengers who had been forced to wait for a connecting bus in freezing Mid-West, mid-winter weather. It happened, fortunately, that CTA had a meeting scheduled with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood the following morning. The merger of Change.org’s petition with CTA’s contacts within DOT produced a move by Greyhound to guarantee that this would not happen again.
This was the basic story CTA heard as the Change.org petition was launching. They carried it directly to Sec. LaHood in a meeting with his chief of staff, personnel from the aviation enforcement division and Chief Counsel at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We learned at that meeting that the division of DOT that would deal with this kind of problem would be the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Ankur Singh and about 10 other Greyhound bus passengers huddled outside a locked terminal at 4 a.m. in Des Moines, Iowa. The wind chill was -17 degrees Fahrenheit (-27 degrees Celsius), and their connection wouldn’t arrive for five hours.
Traveling from Minneapolis to Bloomington, Illinois, on Feb. 1, Singh, 18, had no idea he’d be waiting outside when he bought his ticket on Greyhound’s website. He assumed he’d sleep in a chair inside a lighted, heated station. Instead, he layered on clothes from his suitcase to stave off frostbite.
“Greyhound didn’t tell any of us we’d be outside,” Singh said.
Secretary LaHood listened to the story of the stranded passengers and asked his chief of staff to look into it and come up with a solution. Later, CTA followed up with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration via email.
Eventually, through machinations unknown to either CTA or Change.org, Greyhound issued a statement about a month after the CTA meeting with Sec. LaHood, that said it would ensure its terminals’ and agents’ hours correspond with scheduled arrivals and departures.
It was an action that the bus line took because of the confluence of media attention to an issue and the work of an advocacy group within the US government to come up with a solution.
There are still more questions that need to be addressed. CTA is looking into whether there should be passenger protections similar to airline passengers for all travelers using any mode of travel in the USA.
According to a story about this incident published by Bloomberg News
Bus transportation was the fastest-growing form of U.S. intercity travel last year, with scheduled departures up 7.5 percent, the most in four years, according to a January DePaul study. The study excluded so-called Chinatown lines that don’t publish regular schedules.
Between 1980 and 2006, the industry declined an average of 2.9 percent a year. Since then, it’s grown between 5.1 percent and 9.8 percent a year.”
With the national focus on air transportation, buses get scant attention. There is already a National Consumer Complaint Database. The complaint form for bus travelers who want to file grievances is at http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/Default.aspx.
Even though these problems are spread across the country at out-of-the-way bus stops in rural areas, often, it seems, at city terminals where connections are poor and passenger facilities are minimal, these consumer travelers deserve to be treated with respect and decency.
The industry faces challenges making connections in rural America, where pickup points haven’t changed much in decades, Pantuso [chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Bus Association] said.
“With or without regulation, there’s an absolute need to take care of the customer,” Pantuso said. “We need to communicate and have a discussion among the carriers about what’s the best approach to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”