Let’s say you are a Western Washington University student trying to get to Vancouver, British Columbia, for a concert.
For those who don’t have a car, wince at the price of gas or worry about their carbon footprint, FlixBus offers a way to travel without driving.
“Reducing the amount that you travel alone in a car is the largest thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint,” said Jillian Trinkaus, commute options and transportation planning manager at Western Washington University.
According to Pierre Gourdin, the managing director of FlixBus in North America, FlixBus is a German tech company that partners with local bus operators and acts as a broker between operators and passengers. The FlixBus stop is located in front of Western’s Performing Arts Center, where students can board buses running from Portland to Vancouver and Seattle to Vancouver.
FlixBus has partnered with MTR Western, a local bus operator in the Pacific Northwest, to offer “better service at a lower price,” Gourdin said.
A one-way ticket to Vancouver through FlixBus is $12.99, with prices increasing by $2-3 for weekends and last-minute tickets. A one-way ticket to Seattle varies between $15.99 and $29.99, with the addition of a $3.99 tax per purchase.
Here’s what to know about booking a trip:
Buy your tickets at flixbus.com
“Currently, we are running about five to eight trips per day during the week, so there is quite a good amount of frequency for people to grab the bus,” said Symone Hinton, a government relations associate with FlixBus.
Flixbus usually offers three buses in both directions - northbound to Vancouver or southbound to Seattle - each day, in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Adult tickets are for ages 15+ and children must be accompanied.
Starting again in March or April, FlixBus passengers in the Pacific Northwest will be able to bring their bicycles as well.
“We like to experiment in the Northwest, so you get better quality and you get the new features before everyone else,” Gourdin said, referring to the bicycle racks, which currently aren’t offered in other regions.
Get ready to travel
To enter Canada, passengers must have a valid passport or enhanced identification card.
A backpack and a carry-on are free with the purchase of a ticket, so long as they meet guidelines for FlixBus bag dimensions.
Earlier in the pandemic, travelers crossing the border were required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination and completion of a form through an app called ArriveCAN. Now, Hinton said crossing the border involves fewer steps.
“[Crossing the border] is honestly pretty simple compared to traveling by car and it recently got easier because Canada dropped its COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the requirement of the ArriveCAN app,” Hinton said.
Sit back and enjoy the ride
The trip from Bellingham to Vancouver takes a little over two hours but factor in an extra 45 minutes on the afternoon buses and weekends in case of traffic.
The bus stops at the border for about a half hour, allowing passengers to stretch their legs halfway through the trip. All passengers and their luggage get off the bus, where border patrol checks passports and searches the bus.
“I took [the bus] because I was trying to avoid a lineup at the border,” said Harley Crites, a student in Vancouver. “It takes the stress away from driving and it’s a nice ride.”
Having a pickup planned, a rideshare app downloaded or knowledge of public transportation in your destination city will help your trip go smoothly.
The Western bus stop provides convenient access to long distance public transportation for students and Bellingham residents. However, Trinkaus said it’s important for rideshares and pickups to be aware of the rules.
As FlixBus has increased the number of buses running through Western, there have been more complaints of people picking up or dropping off passengers and ignoring the gate on High Street that says ‘do not enter,’ Trinkaus said.
Rather than driving personal vehicles through campus, people can walk a block from East Oak Street or Highlander Drive, or take the Whatcom Transportation Authority buses, which drop passengers off within 20 feet of the FlixBus stop.
“If we can’t reduce that traffic, or eliminate that behavior, we might have to ask FlixBus to move their stop,” Trinkaus said.