Monday, March 28, 2011

Greyhound Bus Between Calgary and Edmonton

In this excerpt I am going to undertake a review of the Greyhound service between Calgary and Edmonton.  My first experience ever taking the Greyhound was frustrating I will admit,  but it also shows why you should not give up after one try or even before you try. 

The bus service is fairly inexpensive for a traveller at $38 each way with a student/seniors/companion/early booking discount.  As you can see it is quite easy to get a discount with greyhound.  The fare is more expensive when compared to the direct cost of the automobile fuel.  However when you factor in vehicle registration, insurance, maintenance and the purchase/leasing/renting costs the vehicle is significantly more expensive. 

One Tonne of CO2 Visualized
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According to a coach bus has a carbon footprint of 0.01 tonnes of CO2 for 300km, meanwhile an efficient modern car has a footprint of 0.06 tonnes. This is a 6th of the impact than taking your own vehicle.  The website is outdated however and needs an overhaul.  There is no way to look at a list of departure times and the corresponding prices, you must go through a series of annoying steps inputting your choices. 

I had decided to make the decision to park the car in favour of a more sustainable public form of transportation.  My first trip on the intercity bus occurred when I needed to go to Edmonton for a wedding.  My girlfriend decided to take a bus that would have brought us to our destination an hour before the ceremony according to the written schedule.  We chose this time in order to avoid the difficulties with couch surfing at families in Edmonton and being in Edmonton for an extra night.  We however forgot that we were travelling in the middle in February, one of the coldest months.  We also forgot that we were travelling in Alberta, one of the coldest inhabited places on the Earth.  We also forgot that that this was one of the most miserable winters complete with excess snow and sub-zero temperatures. 

The world did not let us down, and predictably all of these variables came together spectacularly.  We arrived at the station early and joined a line of 30 to 40 people.  You could tell that the station had been built a while ago, and exhibits the concrete consruction style of the 80's.   The Edmonton station had the similar situation, and both exhibited signs that they were in need of some TLC and renovation.  The Calgary station is located south of the Bow River and west of downtown, the new West LRT elevated Sunalta station is being built on Greyhound front lawn.  This is wise placement for the station as you provide reliable and frequent transit service to and from the bus depot. 

It was 10 minutes before our bus was to leave, and we still had not even started boarding yet.  Then the dreaded announcement came that our trip would be delayed by 30 minutes.  I had asked one of the workers why, and our bus was being serviced right up to when it had to leave.  For some reason Greyhound did not have a contingency bus.  We eventually got on the bus, our bus was supposed to stop in Red Deer (which is halfway between Edmonton and Calgary), however Greyhound had the foresight to realize that they needed to get those that needed travel further than Red Deer faster.  If you can bypass driving into Red Deer to make a stop you can make up some time. 

The only other complaint I had was the bus stopped on the side of the highway to let 7-8 oil workers have a smoke break.  We were already late, I think they could have lived without a smoke break.  Not only that but if Greyhound is going to be letting people have a smoke break on the side of the highway, at least provide a coffee can so that they don't discard the butts into the environment. 

When we arrived in Edmonton the bus took an odd route that requires it to turn left at a light a.  We were stuck at this light for several cycles, as a I would like to see Greyhound outfitted with a priority switch.  This way the bus can get through the city quickly, changing lights to favour a quicker bus commute. 

When we arrived at the Edmonton station we had 20 minutes to spare, with the ceremony was only a few minutes away.  The bus could not pull into the unloading stall due to a trailer on another bus that was in the way, so we had to wait 10 agonizing minutes as we were not allowed to disembark into the garage.  We finally disembarked and were able to make it to our wedding on time. 

Since then my girlfriend and I have taken the bus a few times, and those experiences were trouble free and left on time. 

The Greyhound Experience

This past weekend was the utopian example of how convenient it is live this lifestyle.  I was in Edmonton again saturday for a birthday, and left early sunday morning for a bus ride home.  I caught a bus from my parents place, transferred to the train and before I knew it I was at the downtown bus depot.  I had some time to kill so I convinced a friend to visit and have a coffee with me.  Although the Edmonton depot may move, it is in a prime location close to all of the amenities of downtown Edmonton.  You have a vast variety of gastro experiences beckoning you within a 30 minute walk.  You can go for a beer, a coffee, a glass of wine and read a newspaper or visit with friends and families while you wait for your departure. 

Greyhound definitely chose a route that showcases Edmonton strengths and serves as a great primer for visiting tourists.  When you leave the downtown bus depot you see the prominent Epcor tower to the north, you whisk by Churchill square and the stunning Art Gallery of Alberta.  If you are lucky you will ride by when one of Edmonton's numerous festivals welcome you with a plethora of sights and sounds.  You also pass by Jasper a lively entertainment destination.  The route takes you past the historic Hotel MacDonald just before the horizon opens for Edmonton's undeveloped river valley.  You take a steep valley road deep into the heart of the valley, where you ride by the pyramids of the Muttart.  On the other side you hit the historic buildings of Whyte ave another entertainment destination. 

The drivers have always been courteous and professional, and I don't have to burden myself with the stress of paying attention to fellow drivers erratic driving.  I can listen to my music, read a book or the local news, do my homework or business work or even come up with my next blog.  I don't have to worry about finding parking and the transit connections at either terminal are frequent. 

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