Red Coach Buses Make Downstate Travel Safe and Comfortable

The Luxe Bus

I was 18 when I took my first bus trip. My mother was sure to warn me to watch out for my belongings and I managed to stay secluded in seats I only had to share with my carry-on items. The trip was intimidating and a little scary, but all in all, it was a painless, one-stop ride.

More recently, I found myself back on the bus, but put at mental and physical ease courtesy of RedCoach. The year-old bus line, modeled after a 50-year-old, energy-efficient ground transportation fleet in South America, is one of two motor coach lines servicing the Southeast region (the other is Greyhound). An accommodating staff makes for stress-free travel and RedCoach’s spacious luxury bus is full sized, but has just 27 seats (versus Greyhound’s 55), allowing for adequate legroom. Furthermore, the standard 110v power outlets helped meet all of my “business-oriented” needs.

But first things first.

I departed Tallahassee for Tampa on a seven-hour trip that began at 1:45 p.m. on Florida State’s campus. I’m no stranger to Tampa — it’s a four-hour drive I make at least twice a year. I prefer to leave in the mid morning, so I can arrive in Tampa in the afternoon, but this time I was at the mercy of RedCoach’s limited schedule. With nationwide service to more than 2,300 destinations and 13,000 daily departures, Greyhound satisfies more time and destination schedules — but there are infinitely more stops in between.

While driving myself is more convenient, skyrocketing gas prices make it a pretty significant expense. And a 24-minute airplane ride is way shorter, but the $477 average fare for Tallahassee flights is out of the question for my student budget.

So, while RedCoach’s midday pickup time and nighttime drop-offs weren’t ideal, the promptness, serenity and reasonable prices (round trip was $80) were incomparable.

Unfortunately, the company’s service does have some shortcomings.

A RedCoach survey says 20 percent of its passengers would normally fly, and 50 percent would drive themselves. None though, would be taking off from a half-paved, half-dirt parking lot like the one I found myself in at the Tallahassee “terminal,” which is actually just a pick-up spot. The Tennessee Street sign is visible from the road, but I wasn’t certain where the bus would be until I saw it parked. This setup might be confusing for first-time riders. (A second pick-up location has been in Tallahassee’s “Capital district.”)

Most passengers (including those we picked up in Gainesville) were students, as an estimated 25 percent of all passengers are. Students probably weren’t too fazed by the pick-up conditions, but business travelers might prefer the comfort of an airport or indoor terminal instead. With actual terminals (and not just terminal locations) you could avoid the confinement of the bus’ onboard lavatory. I prefer elbow room in the restroom, but wasn’t able to find a suitable one until we stopped for a connecting bus in Orlando.

From the Orlando terminal, passengers scurried to buses headed to Miami, back to Tallahassee and to my final destination, Tampa. These are just three of the 12 popular cities RedCoach has expanded to serve although routes from Tallahassee connect to only nine.

The lack of company-owned facilities and communication between terminals stifle the luxury line. On my return trip, I was directed to three different locations in Tampa’s airport. I sat with another passenger who seemed as confused as me about getting on the bus. We wondered if the driver would call or how we’d know when to board.

Nevertheless, this bus trip was relatively as painless as my first. There were no security lines to negotiate, travels were safe and no baggage was lost in the process.

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