Greyhound is the largest operator of intercity bus transportation in North America, serving 3,800 stops across the United States, Canada and Mexico. The company’s expansive route network touches every state except Alaska and Hawai’i. With the barriers to accessibility present in air travel, many people with disabilities are turning to bus services like Greyhound for their transportation needs.
In an effort to guide you in the planning of wheelchair accessible trips and vacations, I have begun to test a wider range of transportation services. I have previously reviewed one of Greyhound’s competitors, Megabus, in what was my first foray into intercity bus travel as a wheelchair user.
The ADA & Greyhound
Before I share my own experiences traveling with Greyhound, I’d like to discuss the company’s recent history with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a February 2016 complaint, the Department of Justice alleged that Greyhound had violated the ADA in a myriad of ways, including:
- Failing to ensure that wheelchair lifts, securement devices and other accessibility features are properly maintained and in working order across the entire bus fleet.
- Failing to provide for the adequate training of personnel, particularly with regard to the operation of the accessibility equipment on motor coaches, and the proper treatment of passengers with disabilities.
- Failing to allow passengers with disabilities to disembark the bus at designated rest stops.
Just last year, Greyhound reached a settlement with the government to remedy these violations. The company committed to maintaining an accessible bus fleet, providing annual recurrent ADA training to all public-facing employees, and ensuring that passengers with disabilities could reserve tickets and special assistance online. They have also been ordered to submit quarterly reports to the DOJ regarding its efforts to achieve ADA compliance.
Prior to my first trip with Greyhound, I had read many “horror” stories shared by wheelchair users, upset by repeated violations of their rights under the ADA. It is my hope, and the government’s, that the consent decree will put Greyhound on the path to full compliance with the law and an improved travel experience for people with disabilities.
Wheelchair Accessible Greyhound
Recognizing the importance of accurate information, I held off on writing this article until I had completed multiple trips with Greyhound. To date, I have taken trips on routes touching the states of Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
I’ll now walk you through the Greyhound wheelchair travel experience, from booking to arrival at the destination.
Booking a Ticket
As promised, Greyhound has made booking trips for wheelchair users possible (and hassle-free) on its website at www.greyhound.com.
Directly from the website’s homepage, you’ll be able to identify yourself as a wheelchair user. Once input your departure point, destination city and dates of travel, click “search.” On the page that follows, you’ll be presented with a list of trips matching your search.
The only reason a particular departure should not be available to you is if another wheelchair user has already booked themselves on that bus. The Department of Justice has mandated that all Greyhound buses used in scheduled passenger service MUST be accessible. Unfortunately, they are only equipped to carry one person who will remain in their personal wheelchair.
Alternatively, you can purchase tickets in person at a Greyhound station or ticketing center. Please be aware that you will pay more in person than online, and the difference can often be 25% or more. I strongly encourage you to purchase your tickets via the website, if at all possible.
Check-in & Departure
If you have purchased your ticket online, you can either print your boarding pass at home or request a copy at the ticket desk (if available). Greyhound has 3,800 different stops, but only a fraction of these are actual brick-and-mortar Greyhound stations. Some of the most isolated stops are identified only by a sign posted next to the curb, while others are located at truck stops or gas stations. Wheelchair users can (and have the right to) take Greyhound anywhere, but I have thus far limited my Greyhound trips to between two developed cities.
For some perspective, here is a map of Greyhound routes in the Continental U.S.:
As you can see, there are not 3,800 dots on that map. Most of those dots represent actual Greyhound stations, complete with ticketing staff, bathrooms and vending machines. But, you’ll quickly see than the vast majority of stops are not located in America’s major cities, but in remote locations reached only via America’s highways.
Every trip I have taken has been to and from a real Greyhound station. Those trips have involved major cities like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., but also smaller ones like the college town of Gainesville, Florida. For a list of Greyhound stations in the United States, click here.
If you are traveling on Greyhound with a wheelchair, it is important to arrive to the station at least 30 minutes prior to departure. Identify yourself to station personnel, so that preparations can be made to accommodate you on the bus.
Greyhound Bus Accessibility Features
You may be wondering, “How will I get on the bus in my wheelchair?” Fortunately, all motor coaches currently in operation on Greyhound’s scheduled intercity services feature an electronic wheelchair lift:
Unlike Megabus, Greyhound uses high-floor buses, which means that a ramp is not sufficient for wheelchair boarding. The heavy-duty wheelchair lifts come out from under the bus, and lift the wheelchair user to the accessible opening on the side of the bus. These wheelchair access doors either slide, or open out. The one pictured above is an older bus, and its access door opens out and away from the bus.
Several rows of standard seats are condensed inside the bus, to open up space for a wheelchair. The wheelchair space (pictured at left) is quite a bit larger than those found on Megabus. Securement straps are used to affix the wheelchair safely to the floor.
Unfortunately, I’ve not found any Greyhound buses that offer access to power in the wheelchair space. While not every seat on the bus features a power outlet, able-bodied passengers at least have a shot at landing one of the seats that do. For many people with disabilities, access to electricity is critical – whether for medical equipment, charging a power wheelchair, or keeping personal electronic devices powered up. With no access to power in the wheelchair spaces on Greyhound buses, I will never consider a trip of longer than 4 hours. Megabus, however, provides power outlets above the wheelchair securement space on each of its buses. Catch up, Greyhound!
What about… the bathroom?
The onboard bathroom is located at the rear of Greyhound buses, while the wheelchair space is located in the middle of the bus. This means that there is no way to roll a wheelchair to the bathroom, and passengers will only be able to access the lavatory if they can walk.
Unless you catheterize, you won’t be able to use the bathroom throughout the journey, except at designated rest stops of 20 to 30 minutes. Depending on the route, these stops occur every 2 to 4 hours.
The Department of Justice previously cited Greyhound for its failure to help passengers with disabilities (including wheelchair users) get off the bus at rest stops. Based on my experience, however limited, this may not have been addressed by the company. I’ve never been approached by a Greyhound bus driver during a rest stop, nor have I been able to get their attention (being half a bus-length away from them).
Of course, if I urgently needed to go and could not “hold it” until arrival at my destination, I would have asked a nearby passenger to notify the bus driver of my need for assistance at the rest stop. I would also not be beneath yelling if necessary. It is your right to get off the bus at any scheduled stop, and you should not be afraid to demand that right be observed. If you think you’ll need to take a toilet break during your journey, it wouldn’t hurt to notify the bus driver before you depart on the trip.
I would encourage that Greyhound instruct its drivers to speak with disabled passengers who may need assistance at every rest stop. This is a common-sense courtesy, and it prevents passengers like you and me from being intimidated into discomfort or a bladder accident.
Just like in the case of air travel, wheelchair users will almost always be the last off the bus once it has arrived. This is most efficient, as the aisles of the bus become crowded with everyone rushing for the exit.
Once you’ve been off-loaded from the bus, you’ll be able to collect any luggage you’ve checked into the cargo hold. From there, you’ll be off to meet your friends, family or ride!
If something goes wrong…
I have said this many times before, but turning a blind eye to disability discrimination won’t do anything to fix the problem. If you find that your rights to equal access are denied on a trip with Greyhound, report it to the company and to the Department of Justice.
Because Greyhound is operating under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Government, it is important that the disability rights section of the DOJ be made aware of any ongoing violations. You can easily submit a report to the DOJ at www.ada.gov. This information will help the Justice Department enforce the agreement while it remains in effect.
While I hope that your trip with Greyhound goes off without a hitch and they continue to demonstrate a greater commitment to compliance with the ADA, failing to report the violations you encounter will only perpetuate the problems. And, remember, the victims of ADA violations are people with disabilities like you and me. Let’s work together and stand up for the rights granted to us by the ADA. These are our legitimate civil rights!
With accessibility continuing to improve at Greyhound, the bus company is becoming one of the better transportation options for travelers users who must remain in their wheelchairs. While I still think the temporary discomfort of air travel makes sense for trips in excess of 500 miles, shorter Greyhound journeys aren’t all that bad.
You’ll have plenty of space on the wheelchair accessible Greyhound buses – I have been able to take advantage of the tilt & recline features on my power wheelchair without issue. For short trips, Go Greyhound!
Have you traveled with Greyhound as a wheelchair user?
Please share the good and bad of your experience in the comments below!