Students Miles Taylor and Aleena Parenti documented their four-day journey across the country
Transport has been Taylor’s passion for years. After launching a transit blog at age 13, he was checking out every train and bus station in the Boston area by the time he graduated from high school. Now studying urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania, he expanded to include a YouTube channel, taking on achievements like the entire Bay Area Rapid Transit system in a six-hour drive. SFGate called him a “transit guru” because of his goal of driving every mile of public transportation in the United States. This month’s trip was not even his first experience with Greyhound across the country.
This time, he recruited Parenti, a fellow Penn student, to join him in Pittsburgh for the four-day trip to Seattle. They documented the trip in a Twitter threadattracts thousands of fans, some of them even met them at Greyhound stations with food.
Greyhound, which serves about 16 million passengers a year, can be a lifeline for some undocumented immigrants, homeless people and rural Americans, but is often vilified for its on-time performance and station infrastructure.
Greyhound spokesman Crystal Booker said in a statement that the company appreciated Taylor’s insights and that the company is working to help customers get to their destination “as safely and efficiently as possible”.
Like airlines, Booker said, the company is grappling with an “industry-wide driver shortage” that has impacted service in some areas, with stations ranging from full terminal buildings to roadside gas stations “to ensure that even less populous communities are still necessary access to intercity transport.”
Shortly after they arrived in Seattle — 28 hours late — Taylor and Parenti talked about seeing the country by road, service on Greyhound, and the future of bus travel in the United States.
This Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Why did you decide to make the trip?
Taylor: Until the day before we left, Greyhound had a rewards program that was really useful, because for every trip you made, you could get one point or up to three points, depending on the type of ticket you bought. And when you got 16 points, they gave you a free tour all over the country. I already had a free trip, so I thought, well, I want to go to the west coast.
parenti: So I just bought a bunch of Greyhound tickets and we drove them between Philly and New Jersey and accumulated enough points to get a free ticket, at a much lower price than actually buying the ticket.
Q: How do you feel now that it’s complete?
Taylor: There’s a serious sense of achievement when you go somewhere with overland transportation rather than flying. Whether it’s driving, Amtrak or Greyhound, you’re going to get somewhere, it’s like I’ve accomplished this. We’re on vacation in Seattle – we did some fun touristy things, but the trip was part of the fun.
Q: What was the most challenging part?
Taylor: Getting stuck in Indianapolis was probably the lowest point because they locked Aleena’s stuff on a bus and yelled at us for trying to get it. Nobody really knew what was going on. My other low point was when we had to take the Salt Lake Express from Salt Lake City to Boise. The seats were extremely uncomfortable and they opened the roof hatch as there was no air conditioning in the bus. But then it dropped to 57 degrees, and it was so cold. That was an overnight trip and I didn’t sleep.
Q: How much sleep would you say you got during the trip?
Taylor: Maybe 20 hours [over four nights].
Q: What did you do for food?
parenti: Before I left I packed a whole bag of snacks because our original route had no food stops. Most of our stops were about 20 minutes, so I packed a lot of PB&J sandwiches and crackers and snacks. But this route we ended up taking had a lot of good food items.
“I feel like every aspiring presidential candidate should ride Greyhound for at least a day.”
When we were in cities we went to real restaurants – we usually got take out. In Burlington, Iowa, we went to this breakfast buffet.
Taylor: We had a few cases where people following our Twitter would come to a station and feed us. In Indianapolis some people gave us a barbecue and in Boise we got beignets for breakfast. That was absolutely incredible.
Q: You mentioned in your thread that Greyhound changed your itinerary twice half way through the trip. What happened?
parenti: Our first was through Chicago and then Minneapolis, and then through Montana. Then, in Pittsburgh, it was changed down to LA and then up. I’m glad we didn’t – that would have taken forever. In St. Louis, our route changed again and we went up to Iowa, over, and then up through Idaho and Oregon to Seattle.
Taylor: We ended up arriving 28 hours after we were supposed to. But we totally expected this to happen, and we didn’t plan anything for the first day in Seattle.
Q: What should people considering a long bus ride know?
Taylor: Bring snacks. But also take advantage of the stops you have. The nice thing about Greyhound over Amtrak is that you can stop at various places for hours to two hours. For example, we knew that if we leave Des Moines, we’re going to get that much time in Omaha. We found a restaurant, planned a takeaway, and then we just walked over and got some real food.
parenti: My highlight of the trip was going to St. Louis. We were stuck there from 3am to 7am. We went to the St. Louis Arch at sunrise. Like, what do you do during those hours in St. Louis – you just find something.
Q: I know you’ve done this before, Miles, but what do you both think you learned about the country by seeing it by bus?
Taylor: I feel like every aspiring presidential candidate should ride Greyhound for at least a day because you’re just exposed to people you wouldn’t see otherwise. They are people who deserve a vote because Greyhound doesn’t treat them very well and they are trying to get somewhere.
Q: Coming out of this, do you think the United States should invest more in bus travel, or more money should go to airports or high-speed trains?
Taylor: In an ideal world, the train network would be much more robust and you would have buses that act as feeders to the trains. You would take a bus from a small town to a train station, and it would be time by train. Given the current attitude towards trains and transit in general, I think it’s best to just invest in more buses; that seems to be as far as people are willing to spend right now.
You have to remember that Greyhound is a private company that happens to have a monopoly on bus travel in the US, which is why they can treat people however they want. Nationalizing Greyhound could put more money into improving service quality a bit, such as investing in new stations.
Q: Miles, you were known in Boston as the teen who rated every T-station. Have you graduated to bigger things now? What’s next?
Taylor: I will graduate from school in December and ideally I will have a job somewhere with a transport company. The big change was during covid. I started creating video content that lends itself to bigger adventures.
As for the things I want to do, I have another free Greyhound ticket. I’ve just about just started trying to visit the least used Amtrak station in every state. Later this summer, my boyfriend and I are going to try to run every mile of the trolleybus in the US – buses that basically run on cables. They run in five US cities and we take Amtrak across the US to try and drive every mile of it. And Boston is in the process of redesigning the bus network, so if I end up in Boston, I’ll probably want to rethink all the routes.
I like video editing and making people laugh. People came up to me and said I got into public transport because of you, and that makes me really happy, because it’s something that more people should be interested in. Ultimately, with climate change, public transport is the future.