Are there toilets on Greyhound buses

When the punk turns on the ghetto blaster, the first doubts arise. Was Joseph Schwieterman wrong after all? The renowned traffic researcher at DePaul University in Chicago sees a new era dawning: that of the American long-distance bus. Gone are the filthy image that long stuck to the intercity bus there. Gone are the stigma that only criminals, the homeless and junkies don't own a car. "Long-distance buses," says Schwieterman, "are currently the fastest growing means of transport in the US. There is something magical about the way the market develops."

The way the punk is dancing now, he might really be possessed by a spell. It's 8:30 a.m. just before the Greyhound bus departs from Atlanta, Georgia, to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The waiting hall is full. Passengers are snoozing everywhere, their heads buried deep in hoodies and pillows they have brought with them. A man gesticulates at the ticket counter. He's wearing torn pants and an open shirt while outside the temperature is scratching freezing point. A few meters away, an older man sits down next to a teenage woman. "Call me!" He whispers and slips her a business card. When he has disappeared, the woman turns to her friend: "Damn pervert. I've never seen him before."

Some Americans are afraid of driving

Of course, the waiting hall in Atlanta is only a snapshot of a single station, especially in the structurally weak south of the USA. Nevertheless, it shows why long-distance buses do not enjoy the best reputation in the States. Some Americans are downright afraid of driving. While luggage is screened at airports and in many train stations, this almost never happens at bus stations. The brutal murder of a 22-year-old Canadian who was beheaded by a passenger in a Greyhound bus in 2008 has not been forgotten to this day. Bus drivers have also been attacked, which is why they are now barricading themselves behind a pane of Plexiglas.

Greyhound, the largest supplier in the North American market, has long had a service problem. Because buses were regularly overbooked, passengers were often not allowed to board despite a valid ticket. That ended this summer: One ticket, one seat - that's the motto. The company, which turned 100 in May, wants to get a new image. The "New Greyhound" should be more reliable, comfortable and safer. This also includes new express routes that connect large cities without annoying intermediate stops.

"Hi guys, welcome on board"

8.45 a.m.: Just in time for the minute, the bus starts moving. Kenny, the driver, grabs the microphone behind the plexiglass: "Hi guys, welcome aboard. Please turn your smartphones to silent. And remember, there is no smoking or drinking here." In fact, there is calm. Most of the passengers recline their arms and doze off; even the punk wears headphones. However, the vehicle is not quite as comfortable as the company is promoting the New Greyhound. The leather seats are sagging, there are crumbs between the cracks. But the toilet flashes, which can even be used while driving. This is not always welcomed in German long-distance buses.

Smartphones are playing an increasingly important role for travelers. "Passengers love their mobile devices," says traffic researcher Schwieterman. "Unlike in the car, you can surf as much as you want on the bus." In order to meet this requirement, many companies not only offer free internet, but also sockets at every seat. Schwieterman's study shows that the strategy is working. The American Federal Audit Office (GAO) has calculated that between 1960 and 1990 the number of annual long-distance bus passengers fell from 140 million to 40 million. Since the new millennium, however, they have risen sharply again - according to the industry association "American Bus Association" to more than 637 million (2012).