- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

ABOARD THE BOLTBUS — When an e-mail arrived in Marinilda Acevedo’s inbox touting a new bus service between Washington and New York City with fares starting at $1, she was skeptical that such a deal could exist.

“I really thought it wasn’t true but I immediately bought the tickets,” she said. An intern for Spanish television station Telemundo on her first trip to New York, Mrs. Acevedo was one of 23 passengers on board the new BoltBus service yesterday.

The bus service, which will be operating several trips each day, advertises free high-speed Wi-Fi Internet in transit and ample legroom in addition to its low fares. Considering the 51 seats available on the bus, less than half were occupied on its first run.

Each of the passengers on board the first day said they purchased their tickets for the introductory rate of $1 — a price that BoltBus representatives said will rise as seats fill up through the online ticketing service at www.boltbus.com.

Days before the launch of BoltBus, competing service Megabus.com announced that it, too, would run a starting-at-a-dollar line between New York and the District beginning May 30.

The company said fares for its first week of service would be free, though a 50-cent booking fee would apply. Megabus said it, too, would offer free wireless Internet onboard.

Three families were on the bus yesterday to take their children to the city during spring break.

David Lien, a computer systems administrator for the government from Arlington was with his family taking their children to New York for the first time. Mr. Lien said the BoltBus, a division of Greyhound Lines Inc. operated in affiliation with Peter Pan Bus Lines, was more comfortable than the six-hour trips he has taken by van in the past.

Karen Frank, a clinical social worker from Washington, watched over her two children, Hannah, 5, and Noah, 7, as they snuggled to watch a movie on the screen of an iPod during their trip for spring break.

After his first three weeks working for a committee in the U.S. Senate, Mike Freese was traveling to New York with a friend visiting from Oregon, Kelsey Cloepfil, a first-grade teacher.

“We had already planned a trip up today and it just happened to be that this was the first day of service,” Mr. Freese said.

Dilcia Stephens-Medley and her son, Alondo, had originally planned to visit their family in New York for Easter but pushed back their plans after hearing about the BoltBus service.

Ms. Stephens-Medley, a program manager at the National Institute of Health was using the onboard wireless to look at prices for future BoltBus fares.

“The tickets are going too fast,” she said, noting that one ticket jumped $7 by the time she added it to her cart. She noted that some of the trips were already sold out.

When she first learned about the BoltBus she purchased $30 worth of fares from March through June to visit her friends in New York.

Ms. Stephens-Medley, a Maryland resident outside D.C., said her normal Greyhound tickets came out to approximately $45 for a round trip.

Even that price is low compared with what it would cost to drive, she said.

“By the time you look at the gas, and then the tolls, it comes to about $100 for a round trip, just to drive,” she estimated. Tolls alone normally make up around one-fourth of that cost, she said.

Mrs. Acevedo compared the BoltBus to her bus travels in Europe.

“It’s not that comfortable, but for the price it’s perfect. And it’s not a long trip,” she said.

Two passengers using laptops with Windows notebooks said they were able to access the high-speed Internet, though neither of a reporter’s Apple laptops would connect.

BoltBus representative Dustin Clark tried troubleshooting Internet access on one of the laptops until it nearly ran out of battery power. The coach’s seats rescued the attempt, however, with built-in electrical outlets. Mr. Clark said the service was tested with Macs with positive results and that the individual router on board was the source of the problem.

The BoltBus arrived in Manhattan on time, though traffic on the island caused a 20-minute delay.

“I love it,” Ms. Stephens-Medley said. “You have leg room, you can plug in your PSP, plug in your laptop. … It’s just wonderful, like being in a plane with wheels.”

Mr. Freese said he had heard “horror stories” about the Chinatown bus to New York.

“The bus is just too crowded,” Ms. Stephens-Medley said, citing her own negative experiences in the past. “When you’re on the bus, you feel like you’re sitting on top of each other.”

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