Bus to the beach: DC2NY starts service from Washington to Rehoboth and Dewey

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 6, 2010

Flavio Amaya doesn't own a car, so the Washington resident must rely on the kindness of friends, or a rental, to get to Rehoboth Beach to soak up the rays.

Dior Toney does have wheels, but a few hours before he was supposed to drive out to Dewey for Memorial Day weekend, the hood flew straight up, sabotaging his holiday plans.

Now, Pat Avery possesses a car, and it works; however, she and her partner find that halfway through the return trip from Rehoboth, drowsiness sets in, forcing them to pull off the road for a catnap. The Fairfax couple would prefer to drive straight through, but their circadian rhythms say otherwise.

Yet none of these circumstances mattered on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, when DC2NY, the low-cost bus line to Manhattan, started weekend service from Washington to the Delaware beaches of Rehoboth and Dewey. Prior to that night, you had few transportation options from Washington to those sun-drenched destinations -- no direct train, no major airport, no nearby Greyhound depot. But this summer, your ocean-bound chariot awaits.

When the bus pulled out for its inaugural run, I was among 40 others dressed sunnily in shorts and sandals, our canvas totes, backpacks and black rolling bags following close behind. To experience the bus in its finest and toughest moments (holiday rush hour, eastbound on an early weekend morning, Sunday evening beach crush, etc.), I boarded four times over three days, first for an overnight stay, then for a day trip. I bade my car a good weekend.

"This is so much better than stressing the ride down there," said a Delaware beach-house owner whose car was in the shop and whose wife was already shoreside. "This is a great way to go."

The nearly three-year-old company, whose signature perks include WiFi, free bottled water and democratically selected movies, is not the first big wheeler to minister this route. Those with deep memory banks might recall the Rehobus, which launched in 2007 but folded not long after. The bus was known as a party in fifth gear, partnering with restaurants for pre-ride happy hours and serving snacks and sodas that, with some easy mixing, transformed into cocktails. The owners also targeted a gay crowd rather than marketing to a wider population, one of the reasons, some say, that it failed. By comparison, DC2NY has notified its 300,000 customers, in addition to hanging window posters around the Delaware towns and spreading the news via social media outlets.

"I saw an ad for it online on Monday," said Niki Williams, a Saturday night passenger returning from a visit to her boyfriend's family's house in Lewes, Del. "We are already telling friends about it."

This season, the company plans to run the bus through Labor Day, with three pickups per weekend at Dupont Circle and Union Station, plus holidays. Passengers disembark behind the fire station off Rehoboth Avenue or at the Lighthouse entertainment complex in Dewey. Both locales are a hot-sand hop from the restaurants, shops and, most important, beaches. "In either of these towns, you can't move in a car," said DC2NY marketing director Walter Gill. "It will be a nicer experience riding the bus, reading the newspaper and drinking coffee. And from the stops, it's a five-minute walk to a beautiful beach. That's pretty amazing."

Sensitive to the public's time constraints and job demands, the company arranged a Friday departure that allows travelers to work a full day (boarding at 5:30 or 6 p.m., depending on the pickup) and a Sunday evening return that arrives in Washington before curfew (around 10:30 p.m.). The schedule also accommodates day-trippers, who can log about nine hours at the beach, thanks to an early morning departure. Cost is $39 one way and $70 round trip -- less than a rental car plus gas.

"I am legally blind, so I can't drive. This is the best option for me," said a Bethesda man who traveled round-trip to Rehoboth on Saturday. "I walk around, listen to my radio, have lunch and dinner. That's a good day."

Last weekend, the bus's drive time matched that of a car -- 2 1/2 to three hours. The drivers were wise to detours, and minus a few backups at red lights, we barely idled. And while we didn't look as smashing as that red Corvette convertible on our left, we did have reason to gloat: Along Route 1 as we approached Rehoboth, the 57-seater bypassed traffic by using a lane designated for buses, bikers and autos taking right turns. Eat our exhaust, Corvette.

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