Bolt for the Bus

Bolt Bus

These days, blissfully stress-free journeys are hard to come by. Between long lines, late departures and expensive tickets, travel from New York to other east coast cities is often a hassle, despite the geographic proximity. This past March, Greyhound and Peter Pan Bus Lines partnered to launch BoltBus, a cheap and refreshing addition to the travel industry.

BoltBus is targeting the young, urban, under-35 market of budget-conscious travelers looking for new options in spontaneity and convenience. The coach makes stops in four cities, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and D.C., and if you book a few weeks in advance, expect the fares to be low and bargain-oriented; one fare on every trip will be available for a dollar. Although the price goes up from a buck as tickets get booked, on average, the fare will only be around eight or ten dollars if purchased on-line, and around $15 for walk-up fares. That’s still significantly less than equivalent gas costs, if you needed yet another reason to forgo your car.

BoltBus has bypassed traditional means of passenger loading and unloading in large, multi-carrier bus terminals, and have done away with “old-fashioned” purchase methods at ticket booths, which saves them on staffing and ticketing overhead. The buses are brand new.  The seats give legroom to the tall travelers among us.  Your laptop and iPhone are welcome; not only does Bolt offer free Wi-Fi, most seats come with outlets. Public transportation doesn’t get much more comfortable or convenient.

During my recent trip home to New York City from a visit to Philadelphia, we mentioned to our cab driver that we were taking BoltBus. Good thing we did. Instead of taking us to what we assumed would be a designated bus depot at 30th Street Station, he proceeded to drive us behind the station, a block away, and right up behind a BoltBus parked on the street.  After some confused wandering in search of a Bolt ticket booth, we realized that the buses themselves were de facto ticket booths.  We chatted up the driver, who told us to come back 15 minutes before departure, at which time we scored our $15 tickets, hopped on the uncrowded bus, and departed for New York exactly on time.

Our next surprise came when we neared New York City, and were headed through the Lincoln Tunnel on what any frequent bus traveler knows as the standard route to Port Authority. But then we made a right out of the tunnel, instead of a left, heading not towards, but away from Port Authority.  Our clever BoltBus bypassed Port Authority altogether, and proceeded to drop us on the corner of 8th Avenue and 34th Street.

We stepped out and into the warm weekend sun towards the L train to Brooklyn. If you decide to become a regular BoltBus traveler by signing up as a member (a free process), your loyalty will score you major points.  Take four round-trip rides on Bolt or eight one-way trips, and a free ride is yours.  And as their website touts, this free ride is just that, with no strings attached.  Good anytime you want to use it, including holidays.

How to get there: In addition to the 34th Street at 8th Avenue stop (to Philadelphia and Boston), Bolt also services passengers at 7th Avenue at 33rd Street (to D.C.), and 6th Avenue just north of Canal Street (to D.C. and Philadelphia).  They stop at one location in Philadelphia, Boston and D.C. For additional information visit the website. (BoltBus, webmaster@boltbus.com, boltbus.com)

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