Greyhound ticket to Vancouver booked

2009-11-15

in Canada, Daily updates, Travel

While it has been surprisingly difficult to acquire credible emissions figures for rail and bus travel, it does seem as though the bus is by far the least emissions-intensive way to travel long distances. It will also mean two more days in Vancouver, compared with taking the train. As such, I have booked two three-day journeys to and from Vancouver:

  • Ottawa, ON – 10:00am December 19th
  • North Bay, ON – 3:20pm
  • Sudbury, ON – 5:45pm
  • Sault Ste. Marie, ON – 11:55pm
  • White River, ON – 4:15am December 20th
  • Schreiber, ON – 6:40am
  • Thunder Bay, ON – 9:20am
  • Upsala, ON – 12:05pm
  • Dryden, ON – 1:45pm
  • Kenora, ON – 4:00pm
  • Winnipeg, MB – 6:50pm
  • Brandon, MB – 2:10am December 21st
  • Virden, MB – 3:35am
  • Whitewood, SK – 5:50am
  • Regina, SK – 7:20am
  • Swift Current, SK – 11:25am
  • Medicine Hat, AB – 1:45pm
  • Calgary, AB – 6:00pm
  • Golden, BC – 10:30pm
  • Revelstoke, BC – 11:40pm
  • Kamloops, BC – 2:35am December 22nd
  • Vancouver, BC – 8:30am December 22nd to 6:30am January 7th
  • Kamloops, BC – 11:35am January 7th
  • Revelstoke, BC – 3:25pm
  • Golden, BC – 6:30pm
  • Calgary, AB – 10:45pm
  • Medicine Hat, AB – 3:30am January 8th
  • Swift Current, SK – 7:20am
  • Regina, SK – 10:55am
  • Whitewood, SK – 2:00pm
  • Virden, MB – 3:35pm
  • Brandon, MB – 4:50pm
  • Winnipeg, MB – 8:30pm
  • Kenora, ON – 12:45am – January 9th
  • Dryden, ON – 2:45am
  • Thunder Bay, ON – 8:20am
  • Schreiber, ON – 11:45am
  • Sault Ste. Marie, ON – 7:10pm
  • Sudbury, ON – 11:50pm
  • Ottawa, ON – 7:05am – January 10th

The only long stopovers are 1:45 in Sudbury, 1:10 in Thunder Bay, and 4:40 in Winnipeg on the way out – 1:16 in Calgary and 1:45 in Winnipeg on the way back. This will be my first time ever in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The journey will take some preparation. I will need to bring most or all of the non-truck stop food I want to eat. I will need reading materials and lots of headlamp batteries. I will need a system to run my iPod off AAs, since there is no assurance of electrical outlets on the buses. Other necessities:

  • Excellent earplugs
  • Some sort of eye-covering mask
  • Changes of clothing
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Water bottles
  • Backup headphones?

I probably need other things I haven’t thought of yet (leave comments). There will be little point in bringing a laptop, since there isn’t enough space on a Greyhound to open my 14″ iMac. I will have to rely on my phone and digital camera memory cards.

This will be quite the epic journey, though the payoff of sixteen days in Vancouver is worth it.

[Update: 6 January 2009] A series of updates from the Low Carbon Cross Canada Trip (LC^3T) are online.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Padraic November 15, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I’ve done the ON-BC bus trip three times, although never the return trip. A few tips:
-include a change of clothes (or at least underwear)
-do some Google Maps research beforehand to see what kind of supplies you can pick up on during your stopovers
-the Swift Current station has the best restaurant of the trip
-make sure you keep your toothbrush and other essentials in your carry-on bag so you don’t need to dig into your luggage
-try to pack a variety of food; each time I’ve done it I’ve gotten sick of the large bag of trail mix and turned to truck stop food
-the Ontario leg of the journey is definitely the hardest
-there will probably be frequent stops for the smokers on-board. Learn to use those stops for stretching and getting the blood flowing!

Joshua Prowse November 15, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I’ve done this trip on the bus a couple of times. I found that my iPod lasted long enough so long as I charged it during the stopovers that we had without some sort of battery setup and I listened to it as much as I wanted to during the trip.

Padraic November 15, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Maybe, it’s obvious but turn off the backlight on your ipod to prolong battery use (shine your headlamp on it at night). Also, be sure to stock up on podcasts before the trip.

Rachel November 15, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Bring some of those travel packs of tissues. I swear to you, this was the most useful but not-so-obvious item that I packed while training around Europe.

Sarah November 15, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I suspect one of those inflatable U-shaped travel pillows might be a good call. When I did the Greyhound to Yosemite and back (a mere 29ish hours) my neck got unpleasantly stiff from sleeping sideways. I’d also recommend putting some audiobooks on the ipod, which both keep your entertained and keep the battery use a bit lower because one doesn’t need to change music / podcasts.

This might sound like an extreme suggestion given the extra associated environmental impact, but is it worth buying another ipod so that you get more battery time? I wouldn’t do it if your ipod is newish already or you see no need for a different version (e.g. a nano for running), but if your ipod is nearing the end of its life or you fancy a new one anyway then before the epic bus ride could be a good time.

Milan November 16, 2009 at 8:42 am

[I]s it worth buying another ipod so that you get more battery time?

I am torn about which iPod to get when my current model fails.

The 160GB ‘classic’ has the virtue that it can store far more music than I possess, and could thus also be used as a portable hard drive or photo backup drive.

The iPod touch would be good for watching videos and web surfing on, but the 64GB version is still very expensive ($429 plus tax).

I am hoping my old 4th generation 20GB iPod will hold out long enough for them to release a 128GB iPod touch, and cut the price on the 64GB model.

I found that my iPod lasted long enough so long as I charged it during the stopovers

Really? Most of my stopovers are only 15 minutes, with hours of bus travel in between. If I can find an affordable AA adapter, I will almost certainly go for it.

My cell phone is a bigger problem, since the batteries are very expensive and I doubt a custom AA adapter exists. I may have to keep it off most of the time, using it from time to time to deal with email.

R.K. November 16, 2009 at 9:54 am

What a mad way to travel – especially when someone’s spur-of-the-moment business trip or weekend vacation will more than offset your six days of misery.

Bill M November 16, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Hi Milan…

I’m a Greyhound bus driver in BC; i found your blog with my Google Alerts for “greyhound”.

You’re absolutely right about the bus being the greenest way to travel — a fully loaded bus emits less carbon per passenger mile than any other means of travel, including a Toyota Prius. And you’re also right, it’s very difficult to find this information online anywhere. Although this may not exactly be an objective source, this page from MCI (the manufacturer of most of Greyhound’s coaches) is informative: http://www.mcicoach.com/goGreen/. And keep in mind that not all of our buses are brand new — in fact, some are 10 years old or more — and not every bus you ride on will achieve the best efficiency.

If i may, i have some suggestions for your trip.

You’re very wise to plan ahead like this, to mentally prepare yourself as best you can for your long journey. Many people’s bus travel experiences are sullied by unrealistic expectations and seemingly no forethought whatsoever.

Travel light. Research the baggage policies ahead of time — don’t make a single piece of checked luggage more than 50 lbs; use two smaller bags instead (better chance that at least one of them will get to Vancouver when you do!); and don’t plan to access your checked luggage until you reach your destination — imagine if everyone said they “just need to get something” from their bag every time the bus stopped. Make sure each bag has two tags on them (one provided by the agency, and any other identifying tag) — make sure your name and phone number is on them. Attach the Greyhound destination tag to a part of your luggage that is unlikely to break away (not a removable shoulder strap, for example), and do not attach the tag to two handles together (if someone pulls only one handle, it will break the elastic and your tag will fall off). Have a small carry-on item — i think official policy is for carry-on items not to be allowed, but if it’s small and you argue that it contains items you need, you should be okay. Don’t bring a lot of food. Other parts of the country have food too, and you’ll get tired of carrying it around everywhere. Make healthy food choices from your options wherever available — do the best you can. Snacking en route will likely make it easier to walk away from the greasy cheeseburgers on the road; and many break locations will be near Subway restaurants or 7-11 stores where you could get a sandwich instead of a burger.

You’ve done your research well, and i have pulled up your itinerary as well because i was surprised to read how few breaks you had that were longer than 15 minutes. It has been my understanding that short breaks are offered every 3 hours, and meal stops every 6 hours (whenever possible). Thirty minutes in North Bay and 25 minutes in The Soo would be considered meal stops — time to grab a sandwich and find a power outlet. Take full advantage of your breaks. Sometimes the driver may allow unscheduled breaks, or shorten others — pull those earphones out when the driver is making announcements!

Bring a book, sure, but not too many — they’re heavy — try a good dense magazine or two (“National Geographic” has hours of reading in a relatively small package). Besides, you may want to enjoy the scenery whenever you can — if the weather’s good, Regina to Calgary might be nice … if you like wide open skies. As for the headlamp, please don’t — that little light bouncing all over the place will drive your neighbours (and the driver) nuts — use the reading light above your head, and if it’s important to you, make sure yours works before the bus fills up. If other reading lights are on and yours isn’t, the bulb is burnt out — find another seat. If no reading lights work, ask the driver to turn them on — there’s a switch on the dash. Be aware that the first two rows are usually without reading lights because of the glare on the windshield — some drivers may also shoot you a look for fiddling with your iPod where its display might hit the windshield.

To keep that iPod and cell phone charged, keep your chargers in your carry-on and find outlets at the breaks. If you have DC chargers, ask the driver to charge your device from the socket on the dash. If not, get one of those power converters — you plug it into a DC socket, and then plug your AC charger into that — and ask your driver to plug it in. Remember, your cell phone has to work extra hard to find a signal when you’re traveling through areas without one — turn your phone off when you’re in the middle of nowhere to conserve your juice.

I’d try to do without the earplugs and facemask — you’re asking for people to take your stuff if you can’t see or hear what’s going on around you. As for your laptop, if you want it, bring it — the bus won’t always be full and sometimes you’ll have some space to stretch out. Sometimes, on wheelchair equipped coaches, the seats aren’t spaced evenly and there might be lots of leg room in one row, and less in another — watch for ’em. If you’ll be watching movies on your laptop, keep in mind that the display might be annoying to other passengers after dark.

I hope i haven’t babbled on too much! I don’t do any trips between Revelstoke and Vancouver through Kamloops, so you won’t be seeing me, but i hope you’ll enjoy your trip anyway!

Anon November 16, 2009 at 1:24 pm

It would appear that a Kindle would be the ideal accompaniment for a trip like this.

Bill M November 16, 2009 at 1:26 pm

I have the Stanza app for my iPhone, and i love it! Very handy for long bus rides, but i didn’t suggest it above, because it seems that Milan doesn’t have an iPhone (yet).

Milan November 16, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Bill M,

Thank you for the extensive and excellent information. A few specific responses:

Don’t bring a lot of food. Other parts of the country have food too, and you’ll get tired of carrying it around everywhere.

It might be especially challenging for a vegetarian such as myself to find adequate food at the various stops. I plan to bring along a fair amount.

As for the headlamp, please don’t – that little light bouncing all over the place will drive your neighbours (and the driver) nuts

I use a Petzl Tactikka Plus headlamp. It has a red filter and is thus much less annoying for everyone. In my experience taking buses to Toronto and Montreal, the overhead light only works about 80% of the time, and the headlamp is far easier to read by.

Milan November 16, 2009 at 2:18 pm

A few other things, regarding packing:

I will be bringing several thousand dollars worth of photographic equipment with me. It will be in a Domke F2 bag.

Naturally, it is something I will want to have up in the cabin with me. Is it too large to count as a ‘personal item’ like a purse? It is 12 x 6.5 x 9 inches. Would drivers be more understanding because I am going on such a long trip, and because the contents are delicate and valuable?

As for accessing checked baggage, this seems pretty necessary in terms of books. It is quite plausible that I will be reading a book a day, or more. It doesn’t seem all that plausible that I will be able to bring photo gear, food, and all my books into the cabin simultaneously. During stops lasting one hour or more, would it be possible to access my main bag to switch books?

As a space-saver, I really doubt I will bring my laptop, but food, books, and photo-gear are all pretty critical. As for earplugs, they are an absolute necessity if I am going to sleep. I have already spent more than one night on a bus or in a hostel sleeping with my photo gear cradled in my arms or tucked behind and tied to my legs.

Anon November 16, 2009 at 2:29 pm

It might be worth investing in something like a a Pelican 1500 Case as a hard-backed supplement to that Domke bag.

Anon November 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm
Milan November 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm

It would appear that a Kindle would be the ideal accompaniment for a trip like this.

I am not a fan of electronic books. I like being able to take notes in my books, and make my own index. I like being able to put them on shelves and lend to friends.

I also disagree with the DRM-laden approach being used with the Kindle. The international version of the Kindle also has limited wireless capabilities.

It might be worth investing in something like a a Pelican 1500 Case as a hard-backed supplement to that Domke bag.

An idea worth considering, though a Pelican case would be bulkier and I would still need to bring the Domke bag along somehow. I know Greyhound has a 25kg limit on baggage. Is there a size limit as well? If not, stowing the Domke inside a larger bag or suitcase might work.

Bill M November 16, 2009 at 7:36 pm

To be frank, the carry-on policy seems to be unevenly enforced across the system. In December 2008, a policy was introduced banning all carry-on items for all passengers, with few exceptions (medical requirements, infant supplies, a book, personal electronics, etc). Sometimes this policy is carried out to the letter; other times carry-on is permitted, but it may be inspected before boarding; and other times, few restrictions aside from the obvious are enforced.

This is the Baggage Policy on the website (note that it’s dated prior to the carry-on restriction implemented a year ago) — http://greyhound.ca/HOME/en/TicketsAndTravel/BaggageInformation.aspx

As for accessing your checked items en route, don’t count on it. If there’s a long layover, there may also be a bus change, in which case all items under the coach will be moved from one bus to another, while passengers may be restricted from the loading area. This transfer process works best when passengers aren’t milling about wanting to access their luggage. And, when there isn’t a transfer, there is other work to be done — loading and unloading of passengers and freight, paperwork at points where there’s a driver change — you can’t expect everyone to stop what they’re doing and rummage through everyone else’s luggage until they find yours. The more often you remove your luggage, the more often it may not be properly reloaded. I would strongly suggest that you have what you’ll need with you, and leave your luggage to the tanks below.

As for your “several thousand dollars worth of photographic equipment” in a soft-sided bag, you won’t want that underneath. What people forget is that items under there may move around when the bus is cruising along at highway speed … and sometimes Luggage A crushes Luggage B, no matter how carefully the tank is loaded. So if you really need that stuff with you, you’ll have to make compromises with your list of “critical” items. If you do decide to stow your photographic equipment underneath, it must be packed in such a way that it will be less susceptible to damage, and you’ll want to purchase extra insurance — be sure to arrive early enough to do this.

I don’t know you and i won’t presume to know your personality — i only happened upon your blog today … but if you’re going to travel 4600 km by bus, you will have to travel lighter.

Milan November 16, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I am not talking about some giant photographic setup. It is Canon’s smallest, lightest digital SLR, and four lenses. Flashes can be wrapped in clothes and put in a suitcase below.

It is the fact that the lenses are very expensive and moderately delicate that would make me want to carry them above.

Having this gear with me is of considerable personal importance, since taking photos is one of the chief delights of travel for me.

I would sacrifice on appealing food and/or reading material, rather than risk damage to the photo gear, or leave it behind entirely.

R.K. November 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I would guess that a soft bag in the passenger compartment is safer than a hard case in the baggage hold. Thousands of kilometres of bumping and jarring can’t be good for precision optical instruments.

Milan November 16, 2009 at 9:13 pm

I will be bringing one book along that will help me keep the inconveniences of bus travel in perspective: Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World. It is a 598-page account of Robert Scott’s doomed expedition to the South Pole.

Sarah November 16, 2009 at 11:17 pm

The Cherry-Garrard book should certainly help you keep things in perspective! Nothing helps one appreciate modern life more than contemplating the prospect of 18 months in a tent you can’t stand up inside, in a freezing gale, while living on uncooked meat.

It sounds as though your conclusion re. ipods is to stick with the current ipod out of indecision and hope of future falls in price. Personally, I’m leaning towards the view that there is no ‘one size fits all’ ipod any more, so when my current one dies (or perhaps even before) I plan to get a tiny one for running & a big one for travel and backup. As an aside, I’ve also noticed that the battery seems to run down a lot faster (or in any case to work less well) when my ipod gets cold, so if the temperature on the bus is anywhere near 0C then you may run into problems.

Tristan November 17, 2009 at 12:34 am

“I’ve also noticed that the battery seems to run down a lot faster (or in any case to work less well) when my ipod gets cold,”

It’s not strictly that the battery runs down faster when an ipod gets cold – rather that the voltage of the battery drops off when the temperature goes down. The voltage also drops when the battery is drained – but the voltage drop caused by low temperature is reversed when the battery returns to its normal temperature.

Yes, this means that if you are stuck in the woods and your battery is dead, you can start a fire, heat the battery up, and (since the voltage will rise) start your car with it. People from my cub scout group actually did this once in an emergency situation. But you shouldn’t do it because modern automotive batteries are sealed, and if they burst the fumes they gas are explosive.

Tristan November 17, 2009 at 1:06 am

I just booked sleeper class fare on the Canadian, leaving Van Jan 1st arriving in Toronto 9:30am on the 5th. 331$ plus tax. Meals included. I realize the bus is still cheaper, and lower carbon. But come on, live a little! Why not just take the Greyhound out there, and train back?

Milan November 17, 2009 at 8:20 am

Three reasons:

1) Doing so would increase the emissions associated with the journey considerably: from about one tonne total to about two.

2) Doing so would cost me a day in Vancouver, of which I have precious few.

3) Doing so would cost me over $500 ($125 in wasted bus ticket, $330 plus tax for the train).

. November 17, 2009 at 9:44 am

The Canadian

I’ve just booked passage on the Canadian to travel from Vancouver and Toronto, and I’m quite excited about the journey. Having taken Amtrak across America, it will be nice to experience the Canadian equivalent.

Haley November 17, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Excellent choice of reading material. I was going to recommend ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ or ‘Hitching Rides with Buddha’.

I would suggest bringing a little face towel and some soap, since you won’t be bathing for 3 days, it’ll feel really nice to wash your face and neck when you can. Maybe try to find a Podcast for chair stretching/yoga. I also like to bring my own pillow on bus trips.

Are you concerned about publishing your itinerary and the pricey equipment you are hauling along with you? (I’m just a very cautious traveler.)

R.K. November 18, 2009 at 10:03 am

If you spot some guys in leather jackets hanging around the Swift Current bus station with baseball bats, you best stay inside.

oleh November 19, 2009 at 1:23 am

Milan

What an itinerary – What an amazing commitment to keeping your carbon footprint as low as possible

Bill M

I was very impressed by the help and good advice that you provided

Question:

It seems that the journey is 3 days east to west and 2.5 days west to east.

That ratio reflects air flight times with westerly winds pushing planes eastward faster and slowing westbound planes.

Is that the case with buses? Why the half day difference?

Milan November 19, 2009 at 8:45 am

The return trip is 72.58 hours (4355 minutes), while the trip out is 70.5 hours (4230 minutes).

Part of the difference has to do with breaks. The trip out involves nearly eight hours of long breaks (over one hour each). The way back involves only three hours of such breaks.

That 300 minute difference could more than explain the differential between the two voyages. My guess is that someone who tallied up all the 15-30 minute breaks would find a close match.

Milan November 19, 2009 at 10:23 am

Part of the rationale for making the trip this way is to show that there really are low-carbon, cross-country options – even for those with full time jobs.

A lot of people would reject the bus out of hand. Actually making this trip is a signal that they shouldn’t, given the emissions differential between the bus and flying.

It is also a way of resisting casual travel. It’s absurd that people will travel cross-country (or even farther) just for a weekend, or for a single business meeting or short conference.

Tristan November 19, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I really doubt you’ll convince anyone that it’s an option for them. All you’re proving is that you put a higher value on low carbon than your personal comfort. Look at how society is set up – everything is here to increase our personal comfort levels at any given time. Given how much that is endoctrinated into us, people think you’re crazy for valueing your personal comfort so little. I don’t think you’re crazy, but I disagree with you on the train/bus question – I think the train must be the non-casual low carbon means of transport in the future because we can’t simply remove the heavy emphasis on personal comfort.

The problem with Via right now is that the emphasis for long distance travel is on tourism – “take a vacation the train”, they say. So, I can take it as a utilitarian option only when there’s a 70% discount. However, it’s not unreasonable to think there could be a shift back to utilitarian travel. Via’s former network included daily rail departures from Vancouver to Montreal (through Ottawa) and Toronto, taking both the northern route through Edmonton and the southern route through Calgary and Regina. Combined with Corridor travel from Quebec City to Windsor, basically all large Canadian cities already had daily rail departures towards each other one. I’m not talking about the 1950s, but the 1980s. It’s not unreasonable to think that a new liberal government could push back towards this kind of Via service. After all, we have a model of a much more utilitarian rail service quite close to us with Amtrak.

The point is “trains” are a Canadian value – they hold a lot of cultural cachet. Also, they are an appropriate mode of transport for the future.

Milan November 19, 2009 at 1:21 pm

I really doubt you’ll convince anyone that it’s an option for them.

It is demonstrably an option, though perhaps not one that are willing to accept.

If Rubin and company are correct, even Greyhound service cross-country may be more than we can hope for in the future.

Tristan November 19, 2009 at 3:26 pm

It’s already demonstrably an option. I know people who have done it. And even if I didn’t, I would know that people take it. It’s from hearing about how unpleasant it is that people know not to treat it as an option. Or, it’s from imagining how unpleasant it is – do you hope to prove that it is less unpleasant than people have heard or assume?

Conversely, the positive things I’ve been able to say about American rail travel likely might actually convince people to consider it as an option. Also, rail service can be improved (with Amtrak as a model), but bus service can’t because the problems with it are inherent to the technology (cramped, unpleasant, no showers etc…)

Milan November 19, 2009 at 3:32 pm

[D]o you hope to prove that it is less unpleasant than people have heard or assume?

While it would be nice if the trip was pleasant (or at least not too unpleasant), it isn’t an objective of mine to ‘prove’ that bus travel is comfortable.

As for making bus travel better, there are definitely some options: more liberal carry-on policies, regular access to checked baggage, guaranteed electrical supply, wireless internet access, better food at stops, etc.

They could even have the kind of interactive movie and tv displays that many airlines now include.

Tristan November 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm

“it isn’t an objective of mine to ‘prove’ that bus travel is comfortable.”

Well then I don’t understand in what sense you are trying to prove it is an option. Everyone knows you can book a ticket and go on the trip, if that is all you are proving couldn’t you do the same by posting the schedule information? What extra “proof” does actually going on the trip provide?

As for it “not being an option” what people mean it is not an option “for them” because they value speed and comfort. So, the only way to show it is an option “for them” is to show either that it is fast and comfortable, or to show that the values of speed and comfort are not good values, that people should change their values such that this does become an option. I think we should have value-shift, but I don’t think it’s feasible to think people will give up speed and comfort just to reduce their carbon footprint.

The advantage of rail is that while you give up speed, you get more comfort, and you get something which the plane didn’t offer at all – a sense of romance, of connectedness to the land, as well as new friends. Trains, especially trans-continental trains, are inherently anti-individuating places, where you are forced to meet new people (i.e. Amtrak’s community seating policy means new friends are not optional).

Living in an uber individuated culture of everyone at their computer, trains offer a counter set of social-civic values which are desirable, and which people will grasp onto when given the chance.

Tristan November 19, 2009 at 3:51 pm

“As for making bus travel better, there are definitely some options: more liberal carry-on policies, regular access to checked baggage, guaranteed electrical supply, wireless internet access, better food at stops, etc.”

This already exists – http://www.redarrow.ca/index.html
It isn’t terribly affordable. In fact, I’ll say definitively it is more expensive than rail travel (although it obviously has the advantage of lower capital costs).

Milan November 19, 2009 at 3:53 pm

The concrete action of someone you know has more psychological potency than the hypothetical action of a stranger, i.e. “And even if I didn’t, I would know that people take it.” The extra proof lies partly in direct personal connection, and partly in having circumstances that would normally lead one to fly (long trip, sufficient wealth, limited time off, etc).

show that the values of speed and comfort are not good values

These will always be good values. What they are being set against here is the moral consequences that accompany choosing fast and comfortable options. As described elsewhere, when people “undertake voluntary actions that are emissions intensive, they are knowingly causing harm to innocent and defenceless memebers of future generations: people who will have to live with the changes we cause, but who cannot harm us in any way.”

I don’t disagree that trains have many advantages over buses. I just wish they weren’t (approximately) three times more emissions intensive per passenger kilometre. That multiplier could be reduced through means like mandating cleaner fuels and electrification.

Milan November 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm

George Monbiot also discusses several ways to improve intercity bus travel in Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning.

One key one in the UK is to make journeys faster by avoiding having buses wind their way through the narrow, high-traffic streets in the centre of town. That is less of a problem in Canada, especially on a cross-country trip.

Milan November 19, 2009 at 4:04 pm

The improvements that would matter most to me are:

  1. Guaranteed electrical power
  2. Internet access
  3. Seats with more leg room at moderate extra price
  4. Healthy, tasty food at rest stops – both to eat there and to bring along
  5. Luggage policies that allow you to bring several days worth of food and books as carry-on
. November 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm

High Speed Rail in Canada
November 19, 2009 by northernsong

High Speed Rail in Canada is characterized by being in the past. It’s something that was (the Turbo, the tilting LRC), or never was but perhaps could one day be (the JetTrain). It’s also characterized by existing, but not really existing (many Via trains hit 100mph in normal service, but their overall schedules are hardly “high speed”). It could also be part of the future, if certain lobbying groups get their way. It is not the only option, however, for a future, expanded vision of passenger rail in Canada.

Tristan November 19, 2009 at 4:37 pm

“I just wish they weren’t (approximately) three times more emissions intensive per passenger kilometer.”

One of the reasons trains are more intensive by passenger kilometer is that not enough people take them. The efficiency of a train in cost per passenger-km increases with every carriage added because the carriages weigh less than the engine. Also, I don’t have numbers to back this up, but in the 80s when Via’s LRC trains were introduced they claimed to be more fuel efficient in normal service than a Bus.

But furthermore, I think you are looking at the problem one way, when it needs to be looked at two ways- I don’t think acting ethically with respect to carbon emissions is only about what action produces the least damage right now, but also one must consider which action helps foster the future where a carbon neutral transportation system can be achieved. The more ridership Via has, the more they can petition the state to increase subsidies, the easier it will be to electrify lines.

The dominance of roads in general, and the subsidies associated with them, are the central problem for low carbon transportation going forward. This was not always the case – a huge amount of money was spent building trans-Canada roads so that rail could be starved out by the passenger car!

When you use the bus, you effectively encourage road subsidies to continue. I mean – one of the reasons the bus is cheap is because Greyhound does not have to pay for the full amount of damage its buses do to the road! Furthermore, the more non-commercial transport uses the road, the more the commercial transport subsidy can be disguised with the argument “the roads are being maintained for everyone’s benefit”. All transcontinental transport – human and freight – can be moved back onto rails which can be electrified. Right now roads are public domain and rails private – this is backwards! We need to switch to user-pay, privately owned highways (with carbon taxes), and publicly owned, state-subsidized railways.

I don’t need to point out that even without Global warming, peak oil would already make this the sensible ethic and policy going forward.

Anon November 19, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Legalizing pot would also make long-distance bus travel more comfortable.

Tristan November 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Anon – why? Smoking it would be unpleasant for other passengers. And if you just want to eat brownies, then go ahead and do it – I don’t think legalizing would make this any easier than it already is.

Haley November 19, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Wouldn’t all of your suggestions to increase the comfort of bus travel subsequently increase the carbon emissions of bus travel per person, with the exception of #4 (healthy eats)? Electrical power for everyone, the individual TVs, additional space for more than basic luggage, more leg room per person meaning less people ‘carpooling’ essentially on the same bus…?

Tristan November 19, 2009 at 11:15 pm

I think a train will always produce more passenger-happiness-kilometer per amount of fuel. The Canadian could be made a lot more unpleasant by holding a lot more people before it was as pleasant as a bus – even a bus improved to Milan’s specifications.

The solution is to lobby the government to bring back the Super Continental, have it and the Canadian on a 7 train per week schedule, and have both trans continental trains split in Sudbury towards Toronto and Montreal respectively. They could leave 12 hours apart from each other, meaning 2 trains a day going each direction would pass through every major city in Canada West of Montreal. After that gives people real options, we can encourage more people to stop flying.

Tristan November 21, 2009 at 4:37 pm

I expanded my comment here into a post on my blog:

http://northernsong.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/carbon-ethics-and-future-worlds/

Milan November 23, 2009 at 9:51 am
. November 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm

“Earlier this year, the Guardian and New Scientist writer Fred Pearce dug a bit deeper into the green claims made by train companies.

He found that most Virgin trains are nowhere near as clean as the Pendolinos. Virgin’s most modern diesel train, the Voyager, emits 74g per passenger kilometre when travelling half-full. That’s almost three times as much as the Pendolino, and half as much again as each member of my family travelling by car.

Travel on a Voyager when it is a quarter full and your emissions per kilometre travelled are about the same as sitting in a fullish plane. “More leg room”, says Fred, “but no greener.”

Catch a half-full sleeper up to Scotland and your carbon footprint is much worse. He calculates that with 12 people in a carriage you’d be lucky to emit less than 200g/km.

And the truth is, buses don’t do much better. According to figures from the US Department of Energy, a bus with average occupancy (9 people) is more polluting than a car with average occupancy (1.57 people).”

oleh December 6, 2009 at 11:41 pm

The limitation on what you can take in carry on baggage seems to have arisen by the gruesome but singular death of a Greyhound passenger last year. That even could have happened as easily in a food court in a mall, in a library or on a park bench. It had little to do with being in a Greyhound bus other that being in buses might increase the sense of paranoia of an individual. Unfortunately the limitation on carry on baggage may increase it more as passengers have less freedom and more time to dwell on crazy thoughts.

It is unfortunate that fear arising from one particularly gruesome but extremely unique event which cannot be effectively prevented has caused such increased security costs and inconvenience for all passengers. Fear has won over common sense.

oleh December 13, 2009 at 3:01 am

I look forward to reading your posts from your trip, especially from the smaller towns. Before seeing your itinerary i do not even recall hearing the names of Upsala, Schrieber, Virdeen and Whitewood. It will give us a sense of the expanse and variety of Canada.

Milan December 13, 2009 at 11:13 am

Since the bus usually doesn’t include an electrical outlet, my ability to use my phone will be limited during the trip. Also, my phone works badly with the back end of WordPress.

That said, I will try to put up some brief updates.

Tristan December 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Electrical outlets certainly would be appropriate in today’s electronic times. I recently learned that Translink operates a luxury bus service with reserved seats and electrical outlets on its West Coast Express route when trains are not operating.

I hope for my sake that Scott is not right about the Canadian – http://www.sindark.com/2008/02/12/westjet-v-the-canadian/#comment-34075

Tristan December 16, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Looking at this old post is interesting. You’ve certainly changed your mind on the importance of good sleeping arrangements – http://www.sindark.com/2008/02/12/westjet-v-the-canadian/#comment-34096

Milan December 16, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Thankfully, Fido won’t charge me roaming charges in Vancouver or on the way there.

Less pleasantly, there are big gaps in their cross-country coverage – especially in Western Ontario.

I probably won’t be doing much blogging.

Tristan December 16, 2009 at 10:49 pm

I blogged quite a bit during my cross Canada trips
http://northernsong.wordpress.com/cross-canada-trips-of-summer-2009/
by writing the entries outside of coverage, then uploading them (and sometimes photos) when short periods of coverage appeared. One post I uploaded in Fargo, North Dakota on a stolen network during a 3 minute whistle stop.

Milan December 17, 2009 at 8:32 am

I won’t be bringing a laptop, so any posts will have to be typed out on my phone’s tiny keys.

It’s a shame it stopped being able to pair with my Apple Bluetooth keyboard, since that would have been small enough to bring along.

Milan December 19, 2009 at 11:56 pm

The night before leaving, I realized that I had bought the wrong sort of batteries for my iPod life extender. AAs, not AAAs.

I ran out and picked up 16 new batteries. Now, about 14 hours out on the bus, I discovered the new ones are also wrong. AAs, not AAAs.

tristan December 20, 2009 at 4:38 am

That is very unfortunate. Hopefully you can find AAAs at a truck stop.

Milan January 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I made it all the way out and back, with no real woes.

oleh January 11, 2010 at 12:37 am

I found it tiring even to follow your itinerary. I also was able to learn at least of a number of places along the way. Virden, Whitewood, Schrieber and White River were all new to me.

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