Sunday, April 18, 2010

Trip report: Megabus from New York City to Washington, DC

I finally took the plunge and took the bus from New York to Washington a few weeks ago.  Since I had gotten locked out of using Amtrak Guest Rewards points due to the Easter weekend (see post about blackout dates), I decided that it might be time to try out the bus.  After all, the price difference for the two of us was about $170 more for the train, even with a AAA discount, vs. only $50 for the both of us on Megabus.  On price alone, of course, that's unbeatable, but there are other factors to consider, such as time and comfort.  The train takes about 3 hours, 20 minutes, and the bus, considering traffic involved, well over 4 hours.  But, let's just say the hype about the bus that got me excited: free wi-fi, electric outlets, and a modern coach configuration, well, didn't live up.

I already knew that the bus would be about an hour longer than the train, so, that wasn't necessarily a complaint of mine.  However, what was for me, and everyone else, was that the air conditioning never worked the entire time.  When we left NYC, it was high 70s, and, anyone who knows the East Coast, 70s means a heck of a lot warmer than a California 70.  Here we go, 4 + hours of no air.

It wasn't long before a few people started complaining.  The driver acknowledged that the problem was indeed in fact a broken air conditioner.  I don't know how he didn't realize that earlier in the day, as our bus left NYC at 3:00pm.  But, oh well, at least there's free wi-fi, right?  Wrong.  Probably due to the server getting fried in the heat, the wi-fi didn't work either.

Keep this in mind that this is one person's opinion, but unless you really need to save some bucks, I would avoid taking the bus on more than a two hour trip.  I won't necessarily single out Megabus for being a huge let down, but I will never, ever ride them, or the bus, if avoidable, again.  Fortunately, there are other options for bus fans.  A site called Bus Junction can help you pick. 

If convinced by this account, run, don't walk to the train station.  With careful planning, and I will be glad to offer my advice and assistance in getting you a good deal, take the train.  It's comfortable, cool, and there's food available whenever you want it.  (I was surprised to learn that Megabus, at least, doesn't allow passengers to eat on board).  I can refer you to Amtrak Guest Rewards, their loyalty program, and you can earn points for buying train tickets and other partner merchandise.  Send me an email and I can get you a jump start on your point balance. 

As a closure, I did write Megabus a letter and we'll see how they respond.