If you look through old magazines, particularly National Geographic from about 1950 to 1970, you find lots of ads from Greyhound and Continental Trailways, with illustrations showing happy passengers relaxing in clean, comfortable bus interiors. Particularly, the ones that show Greyhound’s exclusive and iconic “Scenicruisers” appear to be in accord with the spirit of the late 50s, when everything was supposedly getting bigger and more comfortable. Over at the Prelinger Archive you can see a couple of Greyhound’s promotional films, in one of which, a big city bus terminal rings to the well-shod feet of well dressed men and women, and appears as squeaky clean and bright as a new airport at the beginning of the jet age. And anyone about 45 or more should remember the commercials featuring Fred MacMurray. (A movie star taking the bus? He probably did. He was a notorious skinflint.)
But now, with the exception of notable efforts to re-image it, like Megabus and BoltBus (actually a division of Greyhound Corp), bus travel is despised and avoided if at all possible. The actual buses themselves are reported to be pretty horrible in the UNited States, and the ones in Mexico are said to be better. The stations are notoriously seedy and scary, and one of the innovations in the new model is to eliminate stations entirely in favor of curbside pickup. Greyhound, the only company offering standard intercity bus transportation throughout the country, rarely advertises in print anymore, and in any case any pictures of buses or their interiors, as well as any attempts to describe the experience as relaxing or pleasant are absent.
Was it ever better? Would a prosperous businessman in downtown Los Angeles, needing to make a quick run to Santa Barbara or San Diego, and for some reason bereft of his car, ever have taken a taxi over to Fifth and Main and hopped aboard a Greyhound to make such a journey?