The Rebirth of Buses: N.Y. to D.C. for $1
Supercheap fares and high gas prices fuel a renaissance in bus travel.
March 28, 2008— -- ALONG INTERSTATE 95 -- Imagine traveling from New York to Washington -- and back -- for less than the cost of a gallon of gas. Sounds impossible, right?
A new bus line started service Thursday offering tickets on the well-traveled route for as low as $1 each way. The company, called BoltBus, is the latest in a series of supercheap bus lines across the country trying to woo travelers away from trains, planes and their own cars.
So what do you get for $1?
I decided to find out for myself.
First, I must point out that not everybody gets that $1 fare. BoltBus offers at least one seat on each bus for that rockbottom price. Then as seats start to fill up, the price goes up.
If you are, say, the fourth person to book a seat, it might cost $7. Wait a little longer, maybe $10 or $15. The top price is $20 if booked online, $25 if you buy your ticket last-minute from the driver. (There is also a 50-cent surcharge for booking online.)
"The earlier you book the seat, the cheaper it will be," said Dustin Clark, a spokesman for the bus line.
Basically, if you want a cheap trip you need to book early and do it over the Internet with a credit card. That is in stark contrast to Greyhound's traditional service where, Clark said, 90 percent of the tickets are purchased at bus terminals or over the phone.
Another change that saves money: BoltBus doesn't use the normal city bus depots. The bus picks up and drops off passengers at a designated street corner in each city.
With the train and the plane -- or even a regular Greyhound bus -- there is usually an indoor or covered place to sit and wait. For my trip on BoltBus, I found myself standing on a street corner in Washington, D.C., waiting.
And then it started to rain.
Passengers huddled together under umbrellas, counting down the minutes until the bus arrived.
I had to remind myself: The ticket cost only a dollar.
BoltBus -- a joint operation of Greyhound and Peter Pan bus lines -- is part of a growing number of bus companies trying to draw the American public back to motor coaches.
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