It may not inspire novels or song, but it is possible to do a cross-country trek on Amtrak.

As this map from Michael Buiting show, it’s fairly easy to find public transit to big cities.

But that’s not really true for the entire country.

A few years ago, Buiting started making a detailed inventory of all the major routes in the country. He had noticed that it was hard to find information about routes online.

He launched a website to share his growing database. Though it’s called the American Intercity Bus Riders Association, Buiting freely admits that he’s the only member.

The site has been popular with transportation planners, but Buiting thinks there’s still a need for an interface that makes it simple for the general public to get where they want to go without driving.

Despite the challenges, in a few areas bus service is starting to grow. And Buiting thinks it’s starting to lose the stigma it once had.

“It’s less and less being viewed as the filthy, dirty domain of homeless people and convicts,” he says.

“It’s fun. You will never ride an intercity bus and not have a story about your journey.”

“Have you ever ridden an intercity bus?” he asks. “You’ve got to try it.”

"Let's say you want to go from McCook, Nebraska, to Nashville, Tennessee,” he says. “The only thing serving McCook is Amtrak, the only thing serving Nashville is Greyhound."

"Right now, there’s no simple way to find your route and get a ticket. There should be a single stop where you can type in ZIP codes and get a trip plan."

"We have the technology, so there’s no reason that isn’t there.”

2014-02-20

Co.Exist

This Map Shows How To Get Anywhere You Want In America Without Taking A Plane

Here's how you could hack together a national transportation network. Hope you brought a good book.

Exactly how hard is it to cross the U.S. without getting in a car or on a plane? For those traveling to and from bigger cities, it’s fairly easy to find transit options, like Amtrak or bus routes. But that’s not really true for the entire country, as this map from Michael Buiting shows.

Buiting put together the map when he realized nothing else like it existed. “I just love data, and I love transportation, and I care about reaching deeply rural America that is not currently connected,” he says. “It was stunning to me how much of the country still is not.”

Take the little town of Tonopah, Nevada. “You either drive there, or fly there, or if you want to go any other way you’re going to have to go 100 miles to the nearest bus or train station,” he explains. “These rural communities have sizable enough populations, but they’re severely isolated.”

A few years ago, Buiting started making a detailed inventory of all the major routes in the country. He had noticed that it was hard to find information about routes online—sites like Greyhound don’t list routes from other carriers, and just buying a ticket can be such an arduous process that Buiting believes it’s hurting ridership.

He launched a website to share his growing database. Though it’s called the American Intercity Bus Riders Association, Buiting freely admits that he’s the only member. “I’m not a marketing guy,” he says. “I just wanted to get the information out there.”

The site has been popular with transportation planners, but Buiting thinks there’s still a need for an interface that makes it simple for the general public to get where they want to go without driving. Because of his own obsession with the routes, he can rattle off where bus lines cross each other. But for the average person, he says, the information is so difficult to find it’s a deterrent. "Let's say you want to go from McCook, Nebraska, to Nashville, Tennessee,” he says. “The only thing serving McCook is Amtrak, the only thing serving Nashville is Greyhound. Right now, there’s no simple way to find your route and get a ticket. There should be a single stop where you can type in ZIP codes and get a trip plan. We have the technology, so there’s no reason that isn’t there.”

Despite the challenges, in a few areas bus service is starting to grow. And Buiting thinks it’s starting to lose the stigma it once had. “It’s less and less being viewed as the filthy, dirty domain of homeless people and convicts,” he says. “It’s fun. You will never ride an intercity bus and not have a story about your journey.”

“Have you ever ridden an intercity bus?” he asks. “You’ve got to try it.”

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6 Comments

  • Sunho Lee

    Memo to the CEO of Exxon/Mobil: Quick! throw this guy a bone and buy him out before anyone notices!

  • The article makes it sound like it's really counter-intuitive that you can fly to little Tonopah, NV but not take a train or a bus. It's because a small airport is A LOT more versatile and doesn't require any infrastructure (train). I can't imagine that there are regular flights to Tonopah, but if there are, one has to consider the versatility of a plane over a bus. Yeah, there are roads leading to Tonopah so a bus could feasibly make a stop if it's going along that route, but planes don't require roads and can go to multiple places that aren't connected by road. For instance, maybe you can fly from Las Vegas to Tonopah and then that plane can just make a direct trip to wherever it needs to go next.

  • A map is nice, but it would be great to see a web service that allowed users to generate a trip itinerary a'la travelocity or orbitz that included amtrac and intercity buses.