Leaving on a jet plane? Take the bus instead

by Beacon Staff • December 10, 2008

Taking the Fung Wah or Peter Pan bus lines may make travlers wish fairy dust really worked. Whether headed home for break or off to Never Never Land, there are other options of transit. Weary travelers can count their lucky stars with the Megabus, Boltbus, or the Luckystar bus lines instead for a dollar.

All three bus companies promote $1 fares for travel between Boston and New York. In addition, Boltbus and Megabus have trips between many other cities in the Northeast like Washington, D.C. and Philadelhpia, and Megabus goes as far as the Midwest, Canada, and even Europe. But as many commuters know, the destination is only half the battle. Inevitably a large sweaty stranger will sit in the seat adjacent the homebound passenger and legroom is necessary for odor aversions and the crafting of a personal bubble. These buses offer padded seating and free Wi-Fi for those busy bees that don't need Dramamine.

All $1 deals are limited, and are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. They can be booked from three to six months in advance. Dale Moser, president and chief operating officer of Megabus.com, said Megabus has some of the cheapest prices around.

"When the $1 tickets are gone, the pricing works its way up incrementally in small blocks," said Moser. "But, the top fare in almost every case is still more economical than driving, flying, taking a train, and sometimes another bus."

For a trip from New York to Boston, Moser said the most one would have to pay with Megabus is $20, and based on their Web sites, this appears to hold true for Megabus and Luckystar as well. Both Boltbus and Luckystar, however, declined comment.

A flight or a train would cost easily over $100. A round trip from Boston to New York on the weekend of Feb. 13-15 would cost only $30 on Boltbus and Luckystar and on Megabus, $1 fares are still available according to the bus lines' Web sites. In comparison, the lowest air fare for the same trip is $200, not including extra fees for things like baggage according, to Jetblue.com. The same trip on Amtrak would cost $115 and Greyhound lists fares at $65. Moreover, even with gas prices at new lows (under $3 per gallon), taking the bus would still save money on parking and tolls.

Moser said the reason Megabus can afford to offer such low fares compared to other companies is because bus ridership has risen 219 percent this year and 250 percent in the last four months, as travelers seek out cheaper modes of transportation.

Lauren Cunningham, a junior cinematography major, often takes the Greyhound bus home to New York from Boston, but recently tried Boltbus and comparatively, had a much more enjoyable, and affordable experience.

"The prices for tickets have gotten really expensive with Greyhound. It used to cost me $30 to get home, now it costs $50," said Cunningham. "Megabus, on the other hand, was awesome and really comfortable-plus it only cost me $15."

The buses also offer a no-hassle type of boarding. Passengers don't need to stress over long ticket lines, because tickets can only be booked online. They don't need to arrive early to secure a seat either. While many buses board on a first-come-first-serve basis, these buses actually guarantee a seat when tickets are first purchased. Megabus riders may avoid the congestion of terminals because the buses pick up and drop off their customers at convenient and safe curbside locations, like outside of Penn Station.

Megabus has a cleaner driving record than others. Moser said they recently upgraded to all new buses to ensure safety. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association reported that Megabus has only had three crashes in the last two years, none of which ended in fatalities. Three crashes are minimal compared to Greyhound Bus Line, which is reported to have 157 total crashes in the last two years, including nine fatalities, and 70 injuries.

With fewer bumps in the road, some bus boarders said these vehicles offer a safer and softer ride than Greyhound. Meg Bailey, a junior film major, rode Megabus on a recent trip to New York and said it was the best bus experience she's had, especially because Megabus has wider seats.

"I definitely had a better experience on Megabus than I did the last time I took Greyhound to New York," she said. "I was more comfortable and the free Wi-Fi kept me entertained. Greyhound on the other hand, was really cramped and crowded; I felt like I couldn't move."

Furthermore, all rambling men and women going home can go green with this carpool-esque alternative.

"If we put 80 people on a bus and essentially take 40 cars off the road, we're using less fuel and giving off less emissions per passenger mile," said Moser.

Nicole Battaglia, a junior TV/Video major, has taken both Megabus and Boltbus several times. Although she claims to have no real complaints about either, she said her experiences on Megabus were just a tad better.

"They were both huge upgrades from either Chinatown bus I had taken since my freshman year. Both busses were new with clean seats and bathrooms and a ton more leg room," she said. "They both have free Wi-Fi aboard, which helps pass the time a great deal. I can't say anything bad about either of them yet, although the wireless connections are terribly slow and Megabus's was rather spotty. But, Megabus made better time than Boltbus did when I took it."