Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Gadgets Have Travelers Opting for Buses over Flights


What happens if you increase the benefits of traveling by bus while the hassles of airport security and the TSA make flying less pleasant and more time-consuming than ever before? That’s right. As relative prices change and you see people on the margin start substituting air travel with travel by bus:

The availability of free Wi-Fi and power outlets in inter-city buses and trains, coupled with increased security around air travel, is spurring more people to take the longer road home…

Schwieterman and his colleagues collected information from 7,000 passengers on intercity bus, train and airline trips in 14 states. They found that at randomly selected points during trips, nearly 40 percent of passengers on buses were using some form of portable technology such as a laptop or a phone. It is two percentage points more than on conventional Amtrak trains and more than twice that on commercial flights and Greyhound.

That’s translated into growth for bus and some train services. Intercity bus networks grew 5.1 percent in 2009, a rate of growth higher than all other major modes for the third straight year, says the study…

Buses have been quick to give in to the consumer desire to stay connected most of the time. The DC2NY Bus, a service that runs between Washington, D.C., and New York started offering free on-board Wi-Fi in 2007. Other services such as BoltBus and Megabus did the same. Even the “Chinatown buses”–lines that link the Chinatown districts of major cities–spent an estimated $5,000 per vehicle to equip their buses with Wi-Fi, says the report.

Airlines are trying to fight back. Wi-fi is now being offered on a number of most major long-distance flights in the U.S.

Still with ever-changing security restrictions including the recent temporary restrictions on the use of electronics in flight means the Accela looks like a better option than ever.

“The hassles of flying and limits on technology use has made people move away from flights for short distance trips like New York to Washington D.C. or Chicago to Detroit.

Photo: (Salon de Maria/Flickr)

I’ve been wanting to take a weekend trip by bus up to New York City sometime soon. There are round-trip tickets from DC for about $40 that includes free Wi-Fi the whole way up. (In contrast, you have to pay an additional fee to use Wi-Fi on flights.) Between gas and tolls (not to mention the hassles of parking and not being able to read along the way), I couldn’t drive up to NYC for less. With prices and perks like that, why would I want to fly?

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