According to Richard, Greyhound has some real work to do when it comes to making people in wheelchairs not feel like second-class citizens. Even in snowy weather and with delays, you don’t really want a driver telling a passenger that he should have brought an attendant if he wanted to get on the bus.
On 12/5/2009, I left San Francisco via Greyhound heading to Pittsburgh, PA, due to arrive on 12/8/2009. My ticket included a round trip/return trip portion to return to San Francisco on 12/16/2009. Because I use a power wheelchair, I called the disability services line and arranged to have a lift-equipped bus along the various schedules that spanned my trip. They advised me that I should be careful not to miss any connecting buses because these modified buses had to be requested 2 days in advance.
During the trip at various times, I was cursed at by Greyhound employees when I requested to be let off the bus at rest stops (they didn’t want to take the extra time required to load and unload me, and they let me know it) and ignored (and as a consequence, virtually trapped on the bus). In general, I was made to feel as though I was an unwelcome burden rather than a paying passenger. At one point on the trip, we were diverted to a different route due to impassable weather conditions. Though this caused an estimated 8 hour delay, I have no problem with this since it was beyond Greyhound’s control.
Next, I was on another bus which lost all interior heat. In 3 defree F weather. At speed with a substantial windchill factor. The window of the wheelchair lift door on this bus froze over with a thick layer of interior frost during this time, about 6 hours, to the point where I could scrape (not just rub) it off and come up with snow in my gloved hands. At this point I was wearing my jacket zipped up, a cold weather cap, and gloves, all the cold weather gear I had available. I lost feeling in parts of my body due to the cold.
Finally, the driver gave up on hopes of restoring the heat, pulled into a truck stop, called for another bus, and had us all go inside the truck stop to wait. About 8 hours later, the replacement bus arrived. While in the truck stop, in a bathroom I checked my extremeties over as feeling slowly returned to them, and belive that I had the beginning stage of frostbite.
Next, upon arriving in St. Loius, MO (a transfer point for me), I found that the bus that I was directed to was not wheelchair accessible. My luggage had already been transferred to it (against my explicit request to the driver NOT to transfer my luggage without me being physically present), and it left for Pittsburgh, PA without me. At this point, I was offered a bus that was due to arrive about 10 hours and 26 minutes later. (~2:54am to 1:20pm)
My wheelchair charger was in the single piece of checked bagge which left without me on the non-accessible bus, as it is too large to fit in my carry-on. I was not allowed to remove it by Greyhound personnel, as they claimed they were too late to spare time to off-load my bag, and that it would be waiting for me at my destination. Due to all of these unplanned delays, the charge level of my wheelchair was critically low. Thankfully it did not die, but it went far below the level I planned for, and what is recommended by the manufacturer for cold weather usage.
Finally I arrived at my ultimate stination, a full 25+ hours late from the time time on my ticket. None of the buses had well-sealed wheelchair lift doors; every single one had a noticeable draft during the trip. On my return trip, I had less delays and only arrived home about 2 hours late (which is acceptable, if not preferred), however this section of my trip had its own set of problems.
Along with being ignored and forgotten on the buses during many rest stops, I experienced wheelchair lifts which were barely operational that briefly trapped my chair, doors that would not close unless the driver banged on part of the frame with a hammer, and finally, a wheelchair lift door which would not open, which trapped me on the bus for over 12 hours. That required a mechanic and support personnel to fix at a station. Oh yes, and one driver who strapped down my chair when I boarded, who refused to release my chair at rest stops, since I “should have had an attendant” and “it wasn’t his job”. From my position, I wasn’t able to reach the release buttons, and was stuck.
Due to the extra time I spent stuck in transit, and the intense cold on parts of my trip, I had to seek medical treatment when I returned home via a ER visit and a trip to my doctor. (Extreme swelling my feet)
At no point on this trip from Hades was I offered any sort of apology or compensation. When I booked this trip, I chose Greyhound over a train or plane for a few reasons. One, I could ride seated in my wheelchair, versus checking it as luggage and risking damage on an airline. Two, the low price for purchasing my ticket 3 weeks in advance. Three, the ability to check baggage for free, and four, the flexibility to change my trip dates for $15 if I found a need to spend more time at my destination. Instead, I had to cut my stay short by a full day.
Along the trip, my ticket had to be reprinted twice due to delays, and my originals were confiscated when I was given reprints, and the drivers each took their portion of the ticket, so all I am left with for proof of my trip itinerary is the transfer information portion.
Nothing about this trip went as planned, and along the way I was treated as less-than human. I want a complete refund of my fare, $212 plus a $3 mailing fee, plus a reasonable fee for the time I spent composing and the money I spent mailing this letter via certified mail, return receipt requested.
Update: Here’s some more information from Richard explaining why he doesn’t want to fly with his wheelchair:
Also, for those who suggest that I should have flown – Airlines would have checked my chair as baggage, and would have had to monkey with my chair’s electrical system (to disconnect the batteries and remove the joystick to make it fit in the compartment), and I have had a couple of friends in chairs who have flown, and been greeted in the terminal at their destination with an inoperative wheelchair. In both cases, the staff just wondered off after saying something along the lines of “I don’t know why it won’t turn on..”, thus leaving them stranded.
Also, my chair costs about $6,000. Airlines are responsible by law for only $250. I chose Greyhound because I could ride in my chair, thus safeguarding it.