|Forbes : Bolt Bus Vs. Amtrak: Do You Really Get What You Pay For? (NYC - Boston) (1168969)|
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Forbes : Bolt Bus Vs. Amtrak: Do You Really Get What You Pay For? (NYC - Boston)
Posted by Gold_12TH on Fri Jul 27 17:50:44 2012When given the option, I’ve always been one to choose a train over a bus—commuting, long-distance, foreign tourist-travel, you name it.
Take, for example, the route between New York City to Boston, which I travel on occasion.
I’ve almost always taken Amtrak, and usually the Acela, citing my needs to work (the Acela has WiFi), buy snacks on board, and be someplace where I can be able to get up and stroll around with my young daughter when she gets restless.
But earlier this week, I had plans to make the trip alone, and so the daughter excuse for choosing the cheap bus over the pricey Acela flew out the window—as did the workload, since the BoltBus has WiFi, too (and since the Acela’s WiFi hardly works, anyway).
As for snacks? I bucked up and brought my own bag of options. So how did it compare? I rated each on a scale of 1-10 in a total of 6 categories.
Price: $104 one-way, midweek, midday between Boston and NYC (Score: 4)
WiFi situation: Extremely slow to non-functional. (Score: 2)
Seat comfort: Top-notch. Cozy design, serious legroom, great foot rest, good work/eat table. (Score: 10)
The Crowd: Business folk and a healthy smattering of well-to-do vacationing families. (Score: 6, kept a bit low by frequent incidents of loud cell-phone conversations and entitled and angry behavior directed at conductors when trains are running late)
On-time performance: For this particular route, 85% in the month of June, and 91% over the past 12 months, according to Amtrak records. (Score: 8 )
Safety record: Amtrak total accidents in 2011 was 28, according to the Federal Railroad Administration—which was 1 more than 2010 and 8 more than 2009. So far, for 2012 through April, the number stands at 15. Not bad, considering that, every day, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains. (Score: 9)
Total score: 39
Price: $15 one-way, midweek, midday between Boston and NYC (Score: 10)
WiFi situation: Starts out fine, but soon becomes too slow to use. (Score: 2)
Seat comfort: Eh. My sacrum ached by the end of the journey, and there was no back-of-the-seat table or tray. (Score: 4)
The Crowd: Young city hipsters with not a child to be found either way. (Score: 9, high because of the utter lack of sustained cell-phone conversations—these folks are way more into texting—and because of how mellow everyone remained when there was a major delay on the return trip; see below for details)
On-time performance: According to a BoltBus spokesperson: “Due to the fact that BoltBus is operated primarily as a curbside carrier and not inside of a terminal, it is difficult to accurately track our on-time performance. We would say that our on-time performance is around 95 percent. We tend to see arrival and pickup times fluctuate more on the weekends due to traffic.” Interesting. While one of my buses left punctually, the return trip left at least 15 minutes late (and had we left on time we might have missed being stuck behind an accident that delayed us by two hours!) (Score: 7)
Safety record: Greyhound, which owns Bolt Bus, reported a total of 121 crashes—5 of them fatal—over a two-year period ending today, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (Score: 6, though this one is is a tough call since it is not possible to know how many of the accidents involved BoltBus) Note: On my recent return trip, the usual 4-hour trip became 6 due to a hellacious traffic backup caused by…you guessed it, a bus crash. The fact that it involved the competition, Megabus, was cold comfort.
Total score: 38[/entity][/entity]
Bottom line: In this case, yes, you do get what you pay for—but barely. If you can’t afford it or don’t want to spring for it, no biggie. The differences are not as huge as you’d think.
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