Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Riding the Bolt Bus

I've traveled between Boston and New York, NY by train, car, plane and now, I'm proud to say, by bus. Flying may be the faster, traveling by train may be more romantic, but you can't beat the raw economy of traveling by bus.

A short notice work trip sent me down to NY City for less than 24 hours. The work didn't require that I take a large toolkit, so it was just me, some clothes and whatever food I could scrounge up around the house. After comparing the prices between taking the train and taking the Bolt Bus, I decided that it was high time that I took the bus.

While it is true that riding on a bus puts you at the mercy of traffic, detours and the like, I figured that it was worth the risk for the savings and for the experience of riding the bus that everyone is talking about. Considering that there are also delays with planes and trains, riding the bus is a flat out bargain.

My ticket was $15.50 into New York. On the train, this would have been $63.

If you aren't familiar with the Bolt Bus, it's a specialized arm of Greyhound which only serves a few cities. The buses don't stop to pick up more passengers and all of the busses are equipped with free wireless internet as well as a few electrical outlets.

A note on the electrical outlets. Not all seats have them so if you want one, you'll have to hunt one down. Outlets are located in the seat in front of you, about a foot off the floor. They aren't easy to miss, but if your row doesn't have them then you'll be looking for them the whole trip. On the bus that I was on, the outlets were mostly in the back of the bus.

The free wireless internet works quite well. I was able to check e-mails and get some work done so the Bolt bus edges out the train and the airplane as far as productivity goes. It's true that the train has outlets for every seat, but the lack of a wireless internet connection reduces its utility greatly.

The seats are firm and quite comfortable. They have not yet been worn down to the springs like so many airplane seats that I've sat in. There could be a little more legroom, but that's always the case. I was lucky in that my bus wasn't particularly crowded and I was able to spread out a bit. Traveling mid day probably had something to do with this, but I'm not complaining about the lack of fellow travelers.

What I will complain about is the queue management that was employed at the Bolt bus gate. Loyal readers will know that queue management is a favorite topic of mine so please excuse the digression (see: Queue Madness or Why I Hate Standing in Lines for details). Three lines were clearly laid out and were marked A, B and C. Beneath each letter there was an arrow pointing to the left in such a fashion that, if you followed the queue management, only two lines would have formed within the marked area, the third would be out of the defined lines and one line would be completely unused.

This may sound like I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but everyone that got in line after I did asked about which line was which. This, easily fixable, sign error was the only flaw in an otherwise decent queue design.

All in all, the trip went quite smoothly with the bus arriving at about the same that I would have arrived if I had taken a regional train. Considering the savings involved and the additional connectivity that this mode of transportation offers, I may just become a regular on the Bolt bus.

As an added bonus, the rewards program is by far more straightforward than that of any airline or Amtrak. Ride the Bolt bus 8 times and you get a free trip. You do have to purchase your tickets online, but I'd rather do that anyway to know that I have a seat.

If you are interested in learning more about the Bolt bus, you can visit their website at Bolt bus Have you ridden on the Bolt bus? I'd love to hear about your experience.

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  1. I like Bolt Bus, too! I'd take them more often if it wasn't always sold out Friday evenings to NYC and Sunday evenings back to BOS.

  2. Adam: Hmm, I just checked and while those times are sold out this week, the times are available for next weekend. A little bit of planning ahead never killed anyone. It's harder to drop down on a whim, but I think it's worth it.

  3. Darn, I was hoping the Bolt could take me from DC to Boston so that I could visit family on the cheap. It does not. It would be one long trip though- I will have to save my pennies and stick to flying.

  4. We traveled on the Bolt Bus two weeks ago from NYC to Boston and what disappointed me was the way the bus driver handled the queues while letting us board. Though we had been standing in an organized line for forty-five minutes and the two of us were among the first five passengers, he allowed late arrivals who just strolled up five minutes before departure and walked to the entry of the bus to board first! Of course this means they got first choice of seats. Not impressed at all.

  5. Riding Bolt bus can be fun and you should know the tips to know about it