“What about Amtrak?”
I’ve never traveled anywhere by train. When my wife asked that question, I almost rejected it out of hand.
Surely, Amtrak would be more expensive than Greyhound, never mind Megabus.
But she was persistent – “Check their website. What have you got to lose?”
Surprise! Amtrak isn’t that much more expensive than Greyhound, and it’s more convenient than Megabus.
Amtrak’s Texas Eagle goes direct from downtown Austin to Union Station in Chicago. Actually, that train starts in Los Angeles, goes to San Antonio (for an extended stop while the train is serviced), and from there to Austin and on to Chicago.
Going from Austin to Chicago by bus means changing buses at least once with Megabus, and probably that many times with Greyhound. Every bus change is another chance to play Seatmate Roulette. Are you feeling lucky?
On Amtrak, if you get on the train in Austin, you ride that train all the way to Chicago. No changing cars, so no schlepping your carry-on luggage from bus to bus, and no Seatmate Roulette.
As far as cost goes, the Texas Eagle is $133 from Austin to Chicago if you buy your ticket at least 24 hours in advance. Megabus is a bit less than $80 – at least $12 from Austin to Dallas, and $64 and up from Chicago to Dallas.
The bad news is there’s no way to go direct from Austin to the Detroit area on Amtrak without a LONG wait in Chicago – the Texas Eagle gets in to Chicago about an hour after the train for Michigan leaves.
So right now I’m riding the Texas Eagle between Dallas and Texarkana.