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One of the best things about living in New York is that I have people in other parts of the East Coast I enjoy visiting, and they’re within a few hours via ground transportation. Usually, I take Amtrak when I pop down to D.C. to see my sister and her family or my Music Stylist and his family — or, ideally, both — but I’ve been sort of intrigued by the famous Chinatown buses, which Jane Wiedlin’s Boyfriend uses for Boston-New York, but which also go to D.C. On the other hand, not all of those bus lines have great reputations for cleanliness, safety, having drivers with licenses, providing transportation without loud Chinese rock music, et cetera.

So I was extra-intrigued by Greyhound’s introduction of Boltbus, its new line between the same cities most commonly served by Chinatown buses. Instead of the usual Greyhound approach of stopping fairly frequently and taking a long time as a result and costing a lot, Boltbus only goes between a few spots, and it goes express with no stops. In New York, it leaves from a couple of places, one of which is at 33rd and 7th across from Madison Square Garden, only a couple of blocks from the F train. Better yet, it drops off in DC right in front of the Metro Center stop on the D.C. Metro, making it very easy to go wherever you need to go next. I decided to try it out this weekend for a last-minute jaunt to D.C. to see the MS — missed my sis this time, but I’ll get her next time, and it won’t be long, because I LOVE BOLTBUS.

They promote two things about Boltbus very prominently: it’s cheap, and it has wireless. Indeed, even at the very last minute, I paid $40 roundtrip from New York to D.C., and if you have a little more notice, you can get a ticket for $30. Or $20. Or $14. Or, if you book a month or so in advance, $2. That’s right — part of their charm is that they offer a one-dollar fare each way, provided you book early enough. Not many of those two-buck fares are available, I’m sure, but that makes New York to D.C. and back the same price as taking the train from Brooklyn to Rockefeller Center.

At any rate, this trip was $40, compared to $140 at the very least for the non-express Amtrak train, which takes about the same amount of time, and probably more like $300 for the express Amtrak train. For that price, I got on a clean, comfortable bus in Manhattan and got off that clean, comfortable bus right outside the Metro. It wasn’t noisy, it felt safe, the drivers were courteous (the one back from D.C. to New York was an absolute hoot), and it was pretty much flawless service.

Not only that, but the wireless worked. They don’t even have wireless on Amtrak. Granted, it dropped in and out a couple of times, and one lady told me that she took one bus of theirs where the wireless didn’t work. But for me, it worked, and it meant that I could send email and be on IM and basically pass the time on my four-and-a-half-hour bus ride without boredom laying a glove on me.

I definitely give them a thumbs-up, and if you’re an east-coast traveler, you might consider it.

April 2008
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