Readers’ Blog

Why does America make it so hard to travel?

Popularity 8Viewed 8987 times 2016-3-5 11:21 |System category:Life| travel

Boarding the long-distance bus out of Jacksonville, North Carolina at 5:30AM, still feeling punk and badly geared up for the 32 hours it will take to reach Texas, I pondered that question.


In China, in Europe... in most countries, there are many transportation options that are clean, affordable and fast, if not comfortable and even luxurious. In America, not so much!


Consider this: Europe has Eurail, a train system that covers most of the continent, and China has bullet trains as well as slower trains. In fact, the whole country is gridded with rails, making it easy to get virtually anywhere. Trains are punctual, safe and efficient, with several runs per day to major cities.


America has no train system to speak of. The eastern seaboard and west coast have fairly regular train runs, and there is rail service across the northwest, with a hub in Chicago. However, nearly 100 major cities in America, such as Las Vegas and Nashville, metropoli of more than a million residents, have no train service at all. South Dakota and Wyoming have never been served by Amtrak, the United States' only passenger train service.


Amtrak is partially government funded, but run as a business. Many lines were discontinued in the last 30 years because they did not generate enough profit to keep them running. Some trains only run every 3 days, so if you have to be somewhere at a certain time, you'd have to plan your schedule carefully. Another factor plaguing those who would want to travel in America by train is that they might have to get off the train and ride a long distance bus to their next train connection. Finally: it is more expensive to train across America than to fly... and just about as aggravating!


Is it aggravating to fly across America? Well, no. Although, the service aboard airlines in America is severely lacking as compared to other countries. While most airlines in the states offer coach flyers a beverage service and some offer a complimentary snack, if you're hoping for something to eat or an alcoholic beverage, you'd better have a credit card: all food must be bought, and you cannot pay with cash. 'Plane food' is about as expensive as food you would buy at the airport. The menu is limited to sandwiches or a fruit and cheese plate.


What is aggravating about flying anywhere in the states is: going through security. Having to strip down a basic garment layer – sweaters and coats not allowed, having to remove your shoes, belt, and bulky jewelry, cleaning out your pockets, having to go through a body scanner AND get patted down. It takes longer to get through security than to check in to your flight and get to the gate!


Even more frustrating: paying baggage fees. Whereas, globally, only a handful of airlines charge baggage fees, In America, there are only 2 that don't assess a flat rate for luggage. Most airlines charge $25 for your first bag, with Spirit Airlines going as high as $45, according to farecompare.com.


http://www.farecompare.com/about/worldwide-baggage-fee-chart/#/


There is no guarantee your bag won't be searched once you surrender it to the airline, even though all bags are put through a scanner. Upon arrival in China I found my secured baggage unsecured and, upon opening it, found this notice from TSA:

This was not the first time I've found such a notice in my suitcase. Somehow I find it violating that, even though non-invasive means of inspection exist, these officials see fit to break into people's luggage and rifle their things, and travelers only find out after the fact. However, if your carry-on bag screening reveals anything suspicious, the agent must wait for you to be present before s/he goes through your bag. What is the difference between looking through carry-ons and checked luggage that demands consent for inspection in one instance but not the other?


Much criticism has been levied at TSA for, among other things, theft. More than five hundred agents have been fired for theft since the agency's creation. For all of these reasons, inasmuch as possible, I try not to fly around America. With no trains available, the only way I can get around is by long distance bus.


America has a comprehensive bus system: Greyhound. For the longest time that company had a bad reputation but it has put a lot of money into upgrading its fleet and the bus stations are, for the most part, clean, well-lit, organized and safe. They also have free WIFI and electrical outlets on their buses. Even the bathrooms at the back of the bus have been upgraded from the smelly pits they were. The fares are reasonable and the schedules are generous, with several buses to major destinations, every day. The routes are planned so that several cities/towns along the way will have bus service.


I don't mind riding the bus in America. It is affordable. I don't have to strip and nobody body-searches me or ransacks my luggage. I can pay cash: no credit card needed. I've met a lot of interesting people on the bus. The downsides of bus riding are A. they are not comfortable if you're on the road for more than just a few hours, and B. they always seem to have an hour's stop at 2AM! Even if you're sleeping, you have to get off the bus and wait around until time to board again.


In China, some long-distance buses are outfitted with cots. Should you be on the road for more than, say, 6 hours, you will be supine rather than upright (of course, you can always sit up in your bunk, if that's your choice). Chinese buses stop every 2 hours – at least, that's been my experience, so that nicotine-depriveds can get their fix (and other needs can be attended to). The downside to Chinese buses is getting robbed. Hasn't happened to me, but it is not unheard of, and the driver is just as vulnerable as the passengers.


Not so on Greyhound: they have very strict rules! No drugs or drink on the bus, a safety enclosure for the driver, who doesn't stop until s/he reaches the next scheduled stop. Messing with Greyhound is a federal offense. I don't think anyone would risk it for so little potential reward: the driver carries no money and, for the most part, the riders comprise of the lowest ranks of society.


So: with virtually no trains, the aggravation and expense of flying and buses being the lowest form of transportation, how does mainstream America travel?


By car, according to statistics. Most Americans prefer taking to the open road in the comfort of their own vehicle. If not their own vehicle, rentals are abundantly available for those with a credit card.


With the choices available, who could blame them? And where do those choices leave a vagabond like me?

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


Passing

Eggs

Flowers
3

Shake hands

Ray

Friends who just made a statement (3 Person)

Like 0 Share
8.03K

Report

Comment Comment (20 comments)

Reply Report eddieturkson 2016-3-5 14:32
Nice revelation - to know that a super power like America has archaic trains running and still boast super power status- well, guns talk. And those theives at the airports- they're everywhere. I've vowed never to use Ethiopian airlines again until thy kingdom come. In 2013 I boardered an Ethiopian Airlines flight from China to Ghana- It took two weeks to clear my luggage after I arrived and guess what? All valuables were ransacked. I went to make a complaint at their office at the airport and the look on the faces of the personnel there said " hmmm.... so this is your first time".
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-5 19:09
eddieturkson: Nice revelation - to know that a super power like America has archaic trains running and still boast super power status- well, guns talk. And those th ...
I'm sorry to hear of your terrible experiences, my friend. People like you and I, honest to a fault, suffer doubly at the hands of thieves because we just can't believe someone would be that way.
Thanks for the tip, by the way. I'll strike that airline off my list.
Here's a travel bonus: check out www.sleepinginairports.com  
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-3-5 23:33
I would rather take a bus or train than use a car for a tour. Sitting in a car for more than 3 hours will drive me crazy. My waist will get sore too.
I have learned that Americans like using car  instead of using train or bus. I know the reason.which comes first?  Which is the cause and which is the outcome?
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-6 10:22
AndrewCraven: I would rather take a bus or train than use a car for a tour. Sitting in a car for more than 3 hours will drive me crazy. My waist will get sore too.  ...
I too would rather take a bus or train, but I have to confess: prior to my moving to China, I would drive myself all over America. Long driving vacations were the norm, and I loved every minute of them!
I suppose you could say the mindset belongs to the culture in which the person resides.
These days, I drive nothing bigger than a shopping cart, even when I go back to America to visit. There's just no inclination to chauffeur myself or anyone else around anymore. Which, I suppose means I'd be in trouble if I ever had to go back to America to live.  
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-6 10:23
AndrewCraven: I would rather take a bus or train than use a car for a tour. Sitting in a car for more than 3 hours will drive me crazy. My waist will get sore too.  ...
What is the reason, do you think, that Americans would prefer to drive themselves around?
Reply Report Chengking 2016-3-6 11:29
When I went to school in the sixties, Greyhound had a $99 All Summer Pass, or some program like that, for students. It was really great.
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-3-6 15:02
teamkrejados: What is the reason, do you think, that Americans would prefer to drive themselves around?
One of the causes I think is that cars are affordable in the USA.
The second, America has a large scale of territory with a low rate of population density.
So arranging fewer people for diverse directions in a vast land is unprofitable.
The third cause is for security. The US citizens are allowed equiping guns. Therefore , it is unsafer to travel with a bunch of strangers who are all carrying guns. (I like the revolver which belongs to Rick in The Walking Dead series anyway.)
However ,inside the metroplises like New York, Washington and Los Angeles the under ground transportation must be well developed  as well as the bus system, aren't they? These places are more secure , because they are guarded by police officers everywhere you can see in cities.
Reply Report voice_cd 2016-3-7 10:08
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted it in our blog homepage.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-7 10:10
voice_cd: Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted it in our blog homepage.
Thank you! Happy Women's day (a day early) to all of you and the women in your life.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-7 10:13
AndrewCraven: One of the causes I think is that cars are affordable in the USA.
The second, America has a large scale of territory with a low rate of population den ...
Yes, some larger cities have very good public transportation. Others, such as Dallas and Las Vegas, don't.
Although you make a good point about the gun culture in America, I think the main reason people choose to travel on their own is because of the individualistic culture. Why submit to mass transit when you can have your own car, drive as fast as you want, and go wherever you want?
And then, there is the health paranoia. Who wants to sit next to someone who might have germs, get infected and get sick?
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-7 10:18
Chengking: When I went to school in the sixties, Greyhound had a $99 All Summer Pass, or some program like that, for students. It was really great.
Ah, those were the days! Right?
Reply Report guml 2016-3-7 14:15
When I heard your terrible trip, I think I am lucky born in China.
China train transportantion system is developing day by day.
10 years ago when I took summer holiday,I need to spend 13 hours to get home.
But now it take only 3 hours to get home by high speed train.
Also I welcome you came to china having a good trip.
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-3-7 14:28
teamkrejados: Yes, some larger cities have very good public transportation. Others, such as Dallas and Las Vegas, don't.
Although you make a good point about the g ...
I think individualism is a human nature, not only belongs to Americans.Europeans have it, Africans have it, Japanese have it, we have it.

However, somtimes, you know, when the enviroment does not fit,  we human beings have to change or submit. There are many cases I think you can find to prove this.

Individualistic culture might be the main reason, but prior to those factors related obove are already possessed, it won't work. In other words, it depends.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-3-7 16:32
china is the only country I have travelled in - and I have been in most European countries - where there are x-ray searches of your bags on the subway, all train stations, and some bus stations.
I even had bottles of water removed from me when entering some tourist sites in Beijing and Shanghai.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-8 11:27
BlondeAmber: china is the only country I have travelled in - and I have been in most European countries - where there are x-ray searches of your bags on the subway ...
It seems your and my travel patterns are the same!  
I can understand having water bottles confiscated at heritage and relic sites: to prevent them being damaged by accidentally spilled water, or being rendered unsightly by discarded bottles. Many museums across the world have adopted that practice for the same reason.
I can also understand examining bags at subways, and bus/train stations. China's recent experience with terrorism dictates such measures. Also, if anyone were to inspire terror: wouldn't mass transit be the logical place to do so? Especially underground?
Nevertheless, China's security measures are minimal - certainly not invasive! - compared to America's... where, incidentally, one can still ride the subway, train and long-distance buses with no security check.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-8 11:30
AndrewCraven: I think individualism is a human nature, not only belongs to Americans.Europeans have it, Africans have it, Japanese have it, we have it.

However, so ...
Individualism is indeed human nature, but culture can be broadly swept into 2 categories: individualistic or collectivistic.
China tends more toward the latter: caring for family and society, whereas Americans tend to operate with themselves (and their clan) as primary focus.
However, Chinese society is changing. There seems to be a growing trend toward individualism.
I find that disturbing, don't you?
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-3-8 22:30 (Pending for approval)
Validation failed
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-3-9 02:40
teamkrejados: It seems your and my travel patterns are the same!   
I can understand having water bottles confiscated at heritage and relic sites: to prevent  ...
it was not at old heritage site's that my water was confiscated, but at the newer places - Water Cube, Workers Stadium (Beijing), Bird's Nest etc. that then tried to gouge people with 10-15 rmb bottles of water once inside.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-3-9 09:34
BlondeAmber: it was not at old heritage site's that my water was confiscated, but at the newer places - Water Cube, Workers Stadium (Beijing), Bird's Nest etc. tha ...
Oh, yeah... there's always that!  
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-3-10 00:21
teamkrejados: Individualism is indeed human nature, but culture can be broadly swept into 2 categories: individualistic or collectivistic.
China tends more toward  ...
Sorry, My last reply is pending for ever, I must have written sth. that is not tolerated by CD.

What I want to tell you is I am interested in Both culture.
Individualism is what I like.

facelist doodle Doodle board

You need to login to comment Login | register


Album

Recent comments

  • 2014-04-01 2017-9-24 17:21

    wonderful depiction

  • The 'Face' Effect 2017-8-17 16:51

    In the USA blacks demand all people of other races to call them "African American" Yet they call each other the"N" word everyday.Maybe they should folllow the law. Respect is earned and can not be foreced on you by any law.

Star blogger

Anming

4124

views

Maierwei

2603

views

财神

4580

views

BACK TO THE TOP
Contact us:Tel: (86)010-84883548, Email: blog@chinadaily.com.cn
Blog announcement:| We reserve the right, and you authorize us, to use content, including words, photos and videos, which you provide to our blog
platform, for non-profit purposes on China Daily media, comprising newspaper, website, iPad and other social media accounts.