TransitKC

Take MoDOT's long-distance bus survey

Often forgotten in transit circles is the long-distance, or inter-city, bus — especially in KC since stations are nearly invisible. Greyhound and Jefferson are still serving more passengers here than Amtrak (from a small-yet-tidy facility at 11th and Troost; upstart MegaBus is a hidden gem for cheap trips to Columbia, St. Louis, or Chicago (from a lonely bus stop pole at the 3rd and Grand park-and-ride… don’t blink!).

Options within the state are fairly limited, however, so MoDOT is asking for your input on experiences and needs for possible expansion of LD bus service within the state and the area.

If you’ve actually used the services that the market provides KC today, you know connectivity is a major issue. St. Louis has resolved this with the new Gateway Multimodal Center (combining LD and local bus, light rail, taxi, and Amtrak). Ideally, all services should be combined at Union Station’s existing footprint, but that would probably require an ownership change (transit hubs aren’t big profit centers).

11 comments

11 Comments so far

  1. lexslamman June 29th, 2009 12:47 pm

    LD Bus, Amtrak, local bus, taxis light rail, and high-speed rail should all serve the same station: Union Station. That Kansas City doesn’t have a subway or light rail is a total sin. We need to stop being so backwards and join the 21st century.

  2. flyingember June 29th, 2009 7:00 pm

    bus service needs to offer classes.

    cheap, simple. your coach-class service with basic seats and cargo below

    first class extra-high bus with seats above and sleeping below. a second bus carries cargo.

    then convoy 2-3 busses into a “bus train.”

  3. Thomas June 30th, 2009 1:00 am

    Let’s be honest, any sort of change would be welcome over the horrible, expensive service of Amtrak. Greyhound isn’t too bad, but it’s still not pleasant.

    Missouri needs to have a state-wide passenger railroad program. It doesn’t have to be “high-speed”, but the point would be for MO to own its own train tracks. Why can’t we just do that?? Trains have been around for 150 years, but for some reason we have made it seem like it’s more expensive than the bailout. It’s a train with some track and some land. What’s the problem?? Hell, there are ways to go about creating a MO rail system creatively. This is not a partisan issue, it’s about our real priorities in the state, which obviously are not people. Or it could be that there are very few smart and creative people in Jeff City.

    Anyway, I’ve already come up with a name: Show-Me Rail. Step one: done. Step two: figure out system–easy, take over Amtrak’s service from KC to STL and add a line from STL to Springfield. More lines can easily be added from there. It would save a ton of money on highway expansion not to mention safety.

  4. Dave June 30th, 2009 9:57 am

    re: amtrak’s “expensive” service…

    one-way fare for KC for St. Louis on july 1:

    megabus – $39.00 (non-refundable)
    greyhound – $37.60 (non-refundable)
    amtrak – $33.00 (fully refundable)

    same trip, 21 days in advance:

    megabus – $25.00
    amtrak – $25.00
    greyhound – $20.00

    megabus offers the fastest travel time. none of the services offer wi-fi, and only amtrak has in-seat electrical outlets and food service. all services depart only from the greater downtown area — leaving suburban riders with little economic incentive — with megabus offering “free” parking at the 3rd and Grand park-and-ride.

  5. bridget June 30th, 2009 12:16 pm

    Amtrak does have stops in Independence & Lee’s Summit. There’s no incentive for KS or northland riders, but the eastern suburbs have options other than downtown.

    On June 20, I took Amtrak to the STL area, and we experienced a 2 1/2 hour delay due to broken down Union Pacific train. It was very frustrating. The ride back was a breeze, but the prospect of getting ‘stuck’ for hours at a time is why it was 5 years since my last train ride.

  6. Thomas June 30th, 2009 9:04 pm

    I have had numerous similar experiences like Bridget. I’m a college student from the STL area, and I’ve honestly just given up on the train. I missed a major family get-together because of a broken down Union Pacific train. Waited on the train outside of STL for 3 hours from 11pm to 2am. We were sitting about a mile outside of the STL station, and I asked a conductor to take me back to the station. Another time, I spent 8 hours coming from STL to KC. Luckily, I have a wonderful friend who waited about an hour at Union Station to pick me up. I would take Megabus over Amtrak ANY day. If you’re not use to buses, then it may be a little uncomfortable at first, but it beats the hell out of Amtrak.

    Amtrak is absolutely horrible, and there’s no excuse for it. Our tax dollars go to leasing a major rail line from Union Pacific (STL to KC). It’s not even Union Pacific’s fault. They own the line, and they should have priority. Rail is significantly cheaper to build than roads, and for Amtrak to not own their own line from two major cities in the midwest is ludicrous. There’s just NO excuse for it. It’s an insult to citizens of our state. F the politicians in Jeff City. They’re not going to do anything about it. If we want to catch up to where we were 100 years ago, then we have to do it ourselves. Raise money from the private sector, talk to the city counsels in KC and STL. Talk to Jackson and STL county officials. We are creative enough to figure out something.

    It just infuriates me. Absolutely pisses me off that our transit in Missouri is complete horse sh***. I say either negotiate some sort of private/public partnership or just go straight to the private sector. Passenger rail can make a profit, and I think there are enough open minded (aka logical) people in MO who would invest in a descent system.

  7. Dave July 1st, 2009 9:36 am

    the excuse for amtrak is chronic disinvestment, the same excuse missouri used recently to get additional investment to bring state highways up to par. remember when we had the worst highways in the nation? now we have worst passenger rail line in the nation and, thankfully, MoDOT has indicated they plan to remedy that.

    please, no more amtrak comments. if you have something to add regarding the subject of the post, additional comments will be welcomed.

  8. bridget July 1st, 2009 10:31 pm

    If it’s enough on topic, I would love to hear more about people’s experience with MegaBus. How full is it on weekends? How are the drivers? How are the customers? Any amenities (electrical)? On time performance? Seat comfort (width/cushiness/armrests)? Storage space?

    (Dave, feel free to remove the comment if it’s not on post.)

    It has been more than 20 years since I’ve been on a Greyhound. The slow schedule from KC to STL does not appeal to me, and frequently driving by the 11th & Troost bus station is, well, depressing. Not a great invitation to ride.

  9. Dave July 2nd, 2009 9:27 am

    i’ve used megabus twice, back when you could still score $1 fares, but not recently. they now have double-decker coaches, which is quite a sight rolling through downtown KC. i’ve heard a few stories about lost drivers and buses breaking down (seems they do send another one out, but don’t expect any break on your current or future fare if that happens), but that never happened to me. both of my trips were on-time and the seats didn’t seem much more comfortable than any other “over-the-road” coach i’ve been on (and they weren’t that full either… but i’ve heard that has since changed).

    they didn’t stop in columbia when they first started the KC-STL route, but now they do. it’s more convenient than greyhound because their “station” is near downtown (greyhounds is in a parking lot on the north side of I-70).

    greyhound knows that they benefit from being co-located with other services, so that’s why i find it promising that one day they’ll serve union station. the 11th and troost facility is relatively clean, but, like amtrak, they need to get someone to organize their boarding process.

    i forgot to mention one other carrier: el conejo. they operate service along the I-35 corridor from minnesota to mexico from another nearly invisible station on southwest boulevard. unfortunately, they don’t have website.

  10. ron mclinden July 7th, 2009 6:38 pm

    a year ago amtrak’s kcy-stl trains had just about the worst on-time performance in the country. thanks to a lot of pressure from modot and an internal review of the union pacific’s dispatching practices — plus a national decline in freight traffic, which means there are fewer freight trains to get in the way — missouri amtrak trains now claim a 99 percent on-time record for may, according to modot:
    http://www.modot.org/othertransportation/rail/passenger.htm

    check this site:
    http://www.amtrakdelays.com/
    for on-time performance during the past four weeks. just five trains were more than 30 minutes late, and more than half actually arrived early.

    yes, the june 20 train that bridget was on arrived 139 minutes late. stuff happens now and then.

  11. ron mclinden July 7th, 2009 6:44 pm

    i’ve used megabus a number of times. it’s fast and comfortable, and their buses are new, but my impression is that it’s a shoestring operation with (probably) underpaid drivers and inadequately developed service standards.

    the important thing in this whole discussion is that greyhound and megabus and amtrak should be looked at as complementary, rather than competing, services. several times i took megabus eastbound and came back by amtrak, simply because the departure times worked out better.