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mar 28

NYC to DC by bus for $3: We test it!

BoltBus, a new discount express service operated by Greyhound, launched yesterday, and I took one of the first trips on the NYC to DC route. (Routes to Boston and Philly are in the offing.)

Starting prices are $3 round trip, after fees and taxes. (The first bunch of seats sell at this low rate. Last-minute bookings cost more. See prices at boltbus.com.)

I liked the trip and would definitely recommend the service.

Because BoltBus is run by Greyhound, I felt that my bus was being operated safely. And the pick-up and drop off locations were ideal for someone planning to use subways in each city. (The buses start and stop at the doors of major subway stations.)

There are still some kinks to be worked out, though...

In NYC, I had trouble finding the bus stop. There was no street marker or sign, and the reservation receipt that I had printed out only said "33rd St. and 7th Ave." A couple that was similarly lost and I wandered around looking for the bus. Eventually we saw a tourist-coach-style bus with an electronic sign saying BoltBus in front of 421 33rd St.

Supposedly, passengers board each BoltBus in three groups, similar to a Southwest plane. My reservation printout said I was in group B, to which I was assigned because I hadn't booked my ticket either early or at the last-minute. But the driver let us board in any order. Conclusion: Arrive at least 15 minutes early to be sure you'll have a choice of seat, and even earlier if you are traveling at a peak time or on a popular day.

For my 5:30 Thursday evening departure, the bus was nearly full--mostly with middle-class-looking families with young children. The interiors of the spanking new coach were shades of grey. There were no live chickens or other, developing-world distractions.

The free movie that was promised by BoltBus.com to be shown on the drop down screens never appeared.

The free WiFi network was operating, but I couldn't get the 26-character password (which the driver gave me) to let me log in.

The bus departed on time but arrived about 20 minutes past its ETA of 9:30 (for a four-hour trip), partly because the bus had a stopover at a weight station in Maryland.

The bathroom was clean but had no sink or dry paper towels, only a bottle of anti-bacterial soap.

Did I mention that my round-trip ticket only cost $3? At that price, or even somewhat higher, BoltBus offers a more comfortable, convenient, and cost-effective service than Greyhound's standard service and the "Chinatown buses," such as Eastern Transport. It is about as good, and often cheaper than, other express shuttles, such as DC2NY.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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