Greyhound revs up with a revamp, face lift

"The buses are cleaner, nicer," he says, adding it's worth the $5 or so more that Greyhound charges on that route.

But his impressions differ from those of Chanik Son, a South Korean student traveling with three friends on a month-long bus odyssey that has taken them from Florida to D.C. to New York and now, Chicago. At $522 for a month-long pass, the price is right, but "the buses are dirty," Son says.

Economics also has propelled L.J. Johnson onto the bus. He is on a 24-hour journey from his home in New Jersey to his grandmother's funeral in Saginaw, Mich., and the cost of a last-minute ticket — $1,500 by air vs. $250 by bus — made Greyhound the obvious choice.

Clad in a dark-brown suit, Johnson cuts a dapper figure in the gloomy Pittsburgh bus station. In contrast to other gussied-up stations, Greyhound's temporary digs next to the county jail are depressing. The acrid smell of urine permeates the restroom, and the prepackaged sandwiches at the grab-and-go kiosk are dated Monday. It's Thursday.

Clifton Nellum, 62, a retired Greyhound driver from San Antonio and frequent bus rider in transit to Elkhart, Ind., takes the conditions in stride. "Some places are clean. Some aren't," he says with a shrug as he sips coffee at a rest stop.

In 30 years driving for the line, Nellum witnessed plenty of humanity through his rearview mirror. Here's one observation: The only difference between bus people and airline people is that airline people dress up more.

Any travel tips for either group?

"Yeah," he says. "Take the train."

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