My recent trip to Washington turned into an experiment in mass transit comparison.
I went down on the Amtrak Northeast Regional train and returned to Hartford on BoltBus and Megabus, with a change of buses in New York.
The experience was fine on each form of transit. Naturally, Amtrak feels like the most civilized option because you can get up, walk around and buy a cup of coffee or a snack. It’s also considerably more expensive.
The buses were both good. I ended up, overall, with a more favorable impression of BoltBus, but that might be entirely anecdotal.
The Megabus we rode smelled strongly of bathroom chemicals with an undercurrent of urine, and by the middle of the trip the odor had reached the front of the bus. I’ve seen nothing in the comments of other riders to suggest that’s typical. And the driver of the Megabus nearly made up for it, being one of those friendly and cheerful people who it’s impossible not to like immediately.
Making the bus comparison more difficult was that I didn’t realize the Megabus was supposed to be WiFi-equipped. I didn’t whip out the netbook, so I have no idea how the WiFi was working. But other riders have suggested that Megabus and BoltBus have about the same level of WiFi — a bit slow but generally fast enough to keep you distracted.
Our BoltBus from Washington to New York was completely full and the driver turned away some walk-ups. Yet it was eerily quiet. The passengers were almost all of college age, and most of them slept or used their computers throughout the ride.
Our Megabus was nearly empty — just seven people going from New York to Boston with a stop in Hartford. BoltBus covers the same route from New York to Boston, but doesn’t stop in Hartford.
Here’s my comparison chart of the features and costs of the three forms of transit. This is based entirely on my experience, including the fares I managed to get with a AAA discount on Amtrak ($64.80) and advance purchases on BoltBus between Washington and New York ($15) and Megabus between New York and Hartford. ($8)
|Cost Per Mile||19 cents||7 cents||7 cents|
|On Time?||30 min late||yes||yes|
|Pick Up / Drop Off||station||streetside||streetside|