D.C. to New York: The Deals on the Bus Go Round and Round
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Consider the lowly bus. Once scorned as the travel mode of last resort between Washington and New York, it has found a new level of popularity. Today no fewer than six bus lines serve those who want to make the 225-mile trek on Interstate 95.
And no wonder. Gas and toll prices are taking an ever-bigger chunk out of your wallet. Last-minute round-trip train tickets start at about $140. Flying can cost $200 or more. By comparison, you can make the round trip by bus for under $54, sometimes much less.
The increase in bus traffic along the Northeast corridor corresponds to a national trend. A January report by Joseph Schwieterman at DePaul University found that intercity buses have increased throughout the country at the fastest rate in more than 40 years, with a more than 13 percent jump in the past two years.
But with so many options, which carrier should Washingtonians choose if they want to waltz up Wall Street or watch the Yanks hit 'em out of Babe's house? We did the research to help you find the best bus for your buck.
BoltBus is tres chic. Operated by Greyhound, this carrier has big, comfortable seats, tinted windows, electric sockets and free WiFi, making the new X-45 bus model a favorite of the MacBook-carrying passenger. Tickets for the six to 12 daily departures are assigned letters, with "A" boarding first, "B" second, etc., so book early with Bolt's user-friendly Web site to ensure a good seat. And reserve way early (about three months, the company advises) to snag the rare and coveted $1 fare. Before departure on a recent trip, the driver took a vote on whether to make a 20-minute rest stop near the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
Departs from:11th and G streets NW, just outside Metro Center Station.
N.Y. destinations:33rd Street and Seventh Avenue in Midtown and Sixth Avenue between Grand and Watts streets.
Price:$1-$23 one way (plus a 50-cent booking fee). Buy four trips and the fifth is free.
Three bus lines are collectively known as "Chinatown" buses. Though they have a reputation for cheap Chinatown-to-Chinatown service, the lines have been at the center of some controversy. An intense rivalry has developed among the highly competitive companies. However, Chinatown Bus Inc. has brought together Eastern Travel, MVP Bus and Apex Bus to offer more departures than any other bus company with D.C.-to-New York service.
Tickets are cheap, but the discount comes with a price. One recent trip had a bus driver who yelled into his cellphone and constantly used a blue back-scratcher -- all while attempting to drive through a wicked thunderstorm. As a reward, buy yourself a $10 "faulex" watch when you reach your destination.