LAS VEGAS -- The dog has started running faster.
Greyhound launched its express service from its downtown station next to the Plaza to Los Angeles on Wednesday, shaving about one or two hours off the standard one-way trip by eliminating all but one stop. The company also runs buses - either new or refurbished - equipped with power plugs, Wi-Fi, leather seats, a designated seating area in the station and an assigned boarding order.
The longtime carrier, synonymous with long-distance bus travel in the United States, already dominates the market with as many as a dozen trips a day, more than the rest of its competitors combined. Five of the trips have been designated as express, with two more added on Fridays and Sundays.
As part of an attempt to boost its fortunes, Greyhound rolled out the Greyhound Express two years ago and has since built it to more than 80 destinations. With the addition of Las Vegas, 10 routes now originate from the downtown Los Angeles station, running mainly to central California and the San Francisco Bay area.
"Greyhound Express has been a huge success since its inception in 2010, carrying nearly 4.3 million customers," company President and CEO David Leach said in a statement.
Manny Juarez, the terminal lead in charge of ensuring smooth operations, said he had noticed a major spike in ridership on the express service when he worked in Los Angeles.
As a privately held company, Greyhound does not release sales or profit information.
The changes go beyond onboard amenities. The pricing system has changed from the days each destination had one fixed price posted on a station wall. Adopting the yield management used by airlines, there are as many as four different prices for each bus depending on the day of the week, how far ahead a passenger books and any refund restrictions.
For example, according to greyhound.com, fares range from $36 to $73 one way on Sunday, Nov. 18, but a range of $1 to $67.50 on Wednesday, Nov. 28. Similar variations crop up returning from Los Angeles, although all the buses, express and regular, are priced the same on any particular day.
On an express route, the bus stops only in Barstow for a meal break, reducing the time to about five hours one way to Los Angeles. From there, passengers can transfer to other destinations in the metropolitan area.
By contrast, regular routes also include stops in Victorville and other stations in the Los Angeles basin, with running times as high as seven hours and 15 minutes.
New Zealand resident Pauline Savao was not quite sure of all that came with her express ticket as she passed by the red balloons and snacks and soft drinks laid out for the inaugural day. But she hoped it would mean an improvement from the trip to Las Vegas.
"It took about 10 hours because of a fire on the highway," said Savao, as she headed to Santa Ana, Calif., for her grandmother's 100th birthday. "And the smell coming from the bathroom wasn't too good."
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