It’s a modern-day dilemma: you want to see the world. But as gas prices and carbon emissions rise, you also want to avoid negative impacts on both the environment and your wallet. It’s a tricky situation and one that many would-be travelers face during vacation season. Most don’t realize that the answer to their quandary might be as close as the local bus depot or the stop down the street. Because bus travel is now being recognized for what it is: a cheaper, greener way to travel.
Think about it. Airline fuel surcharges are skyrocketing, adding sometimes hundreds of dollars to already pricey fares. And in big countries like the US, where there’s often lots of distance between airports and “local” sights and attractions, car rental after a flight is often a necessity. Train travel also faces significant challenges in North America: although high-speed rail is being planned for certain corridors in the Northeast and parts of the South and California, the infrastructure will take years to develop, and tourists will still face major challenges getting access to more isolated spots like national parks and attractions in the heartland. And in its current state, with aging tracks and equipment, rail travel offers little time savings in exchange for the hefty premiums it charges for a single round trip ticket (which can often be as high as $200+ for a trip from Boston to New York’s Penn Station, for example.) And as regular passengers in the Northeast corridor will tell you, the train ride can often take close to 4 hours–which is about the same amount of time as it takes to drive from Beantown to the Big Apple.
Comparatively, bus travel is not only convenient, but it can also offer significant discounts over other forms of transportation – even that most hallowed of American institutions, the automobile. Consider that gas prices have fluctuated from a national average low of $1.61 in December of 2008 to a high of $3.97 in May of this year*; for many Americans, depending on the model of car they drive (and let’s face it, Americans like BIG cars), fill-ups that approach $100 can be the norm. And with an average fuel efficiency rate of about 31 mpg for standard cars, that suddenly makes the Great American Road Trip a very pricey endeavor. Measure that against the bus tour: fuel costs are reduced dramatically when divided by as many as 40 to 60 passengers per trip, plus you often get the benefit of even further savings with things like group discounts at hotels. Not to mention the deals on tours and vacations that are often available for seasonal travel.
But what really makes bus travel a win-win situation lies in its benefit to the environment. Recent studies indicate that our reliance on the private car is the fastest growing form of energy use, and is responsible for 95% of the world’s oil consumption. In fact, according to the National Resources Defense Council, if every car carried more than one person on its daily commute, we would save 32 million gallons of gasoline each day.* It’s a staggering number. So you can imagine how much impact sharing a bus with 40-60 other people could reduce your carbon footprint if you did it on a regular basis – say, for those long holiday weekends, trips to the shopping outlets, or casino excursions. And just imagine how much less exhaust would be pumped over the skies of natural treasures like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Niagara, and the Grand Canyon if families adopted bus travel as a norm. Making more travelers aware of this fact is something we strive for days here at TakeTours.com.
One group who caught our attention, who really “walk the talk” of the green revolution and travel, are the founders GreenXC.com. This group of civic-minded young professionals started an awareness-raising campaign to benefit U.S. national forests by setting themselves a major challenge: to get cross-country in three weeks using only ride-shares. And they did it: in only 23 days, they made it from New York City to Sequoia National Park, with stops at waypoints like Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Mt. St. Helens, Crater Lake, and Yosemite along the way. In all, they traveled 4447 miles. But their journey didn’t end there; their mission is now to spread the word that green travel can be budget-friendly, too.
“We hope to educate and encourage people to take action when traveling to reduce their carbon footprints while still being able to travel on a budget.” says GreenXC co-founder, Polina Raygorodskaya, “We want to help them find cheap green lodging and transportation options as well as tips to help them travel better. If we all unite and travel greener we can make a significant impact on our environment.” And one of their recommendations? Bus travel. They’ll soon be advising their members to consider bus trips and tours offered by TakeTours and our parent company, GotoBus, as greener ways to see the U.S. and the world. Because as they say on their site, “We think travel should be for everyone. It should be a necessity, not a luxury.” And we definitely agree.