The Evolution of Greyhound Bus Stations: From Middle Class Accessibility to Strategic Locations

Oliver Brown

Updated Thursday, April 11, 2024 at 11:56 PM CDT

The Evolution of Greyhound Bus Stations: From Middle Class Accessibility to Strategic Locations

The Rise of Greyhound Bus Stations in Middle Class America

Greyhound bus stations were built in cities around the country before suburbanization and the interstate system were developed, making them accessible to the middle-class population at the time. With a widespread presence of 4,750 stations by the beginning of WWII, Greyhound established itself as a convenient mode of intercity travel for many Americans.

The Socioeconomic Shift and Deterioration of Inner City Neighborhoods

As middle-class flight and white flight to the suburbs occurred, the socioeconomic profile of many inner-city neighborhoods where Greyhound had invested in stations slowly changed and deteriorated. The once thriving areas became "poor, high crime neighborhoods," making it financially challenging for Greyhound to relocate their stations.

The Costly Challenge of Relocation

Greyhound bus stations require a large plot of land to accommodate parking for passengers and buses, as well as a building for ticket sales, seating, and amenities. However, land in areas with a high population, where it would make sense to build a bus station, is expensive, typically costing at least $100,000 per acre. To balance the need for accessible locations and the cost of real estate, Greyhound often selects sites slightly removed from downtown areas.

The Stigma Surrounding Bus Travel

Taking a bus is stigmatized in the US, leading many people who can afford it to prefer driving or renting a car for intercity travel. This preference is due to the well-developed system of one-way car rentals in the US, compared to Europe, where bus or train travel is often preferred unless the cargo is too inconvenient to carry but too little to send by freight.

Varying Locations of Greyhound Bus Stations

Not all Greyhound bus stations are or were located in poor, high crime neighborhoods. For example, the one in Philadelphia was in the heart of the city. Greyhound strategically builds stations close to the people who are using their services, rather than spending extra money on expensive real estate near people who are not their customers.

The Changing Landscape of Greyhound Bus Stations

Greyhound is now owned by a venture capital firm primarily interested in real estate. As a result, they are selling off stations and operating with no terminals in locations where they can do so. Additionally, the decline in intercity bus travel popularity since the mid-1970s has resulted in Greyhound becoming a "last resort" for many people, impacting the choice of station locations.

Factors Influencing Station Locations

The presence of highways and freeways near Greyhound bus stations is a factor in their selection of locations, as they provide convenient access for travelers. Initially, Greyhound bus stations were built in areas with a significant middle-class population near the traditional urban core, as trains and buses were the primary modes of intercity travel before suburbanization and the interstate system.

Greyhound bus stations have evolved over time, adapting to the changing socioeconomic landscape and travel preferences of Americans. While some stations may be located in areas that have experienced economic decline, Greyhound strategically selects locations that cater to their customer base and provide convenient access for travelers. Despite the challenges faced by Greyhound, their commitment to providing accessible intercity travel options remains steadfast.

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