Monday, October 6, 2008
This past weekend I went up to New York City for the third time this year. This time, I took the Washington Deluxe bus service. A biking friend of mine mentioned he's taken it a lot in the past and that he was pleased with their service and bus schedule. I would have taken the Bolt Bus, as before, but for some odd reason, I could not get a later bus coming back on Sunday night. The last available bus on their schedule listed to be at 2 p.m., which wouldn't do. So I thought I'd try the Washington Deluxe bus and see how it compared with the Bolt Bus.
I rode my bike on Saturday morning, leaving my house at 6 a.m., to catch the first bus out, 7:45 a.m., at the Dupont Circle stop. The bus then goes on to pick up at 15th & K Streets, and then near Union Station. I chose the Dupont Circle stop because I didn't know how crowded the bus would be or get, and I didn't want any problems with my bike. There were about 10 or so people at the bus stop and I slipped my Bike Friday (not folded) into the farthest bin. I got a seat in the first row (seems like a lot of people don't like to sit in the front row seat - but I think it's nice - you get a better view). As we rolled away from the bus stop, a lady came up to the driver and said that the driver had left just a couple minutes earlier than the schedule stated, and that her boyfriend was right behind her, trying to get the bus. The driver checked his watch and the schedule, and apologized, and he went around the block to go pick up her boyfriend. There were a couple of other people who were there waiting too, so it's good he went back!
We picked up at the other two locations, and had a full bus. With Washington Deluxe, you can pay in advance online by credit card, but you can also pay cash on the bus. With Bolt Bus, everyone pays upfront online. I think this is better, in a way, because it saves time. On the Washington Deluxe bus, there was another employee who came on the bus to collect the money from passengers, while we all sat waiting on the bus. So, even though I got on the bus at 7:45, it was 8:30 by the time we left D.C.! :/ Also, with Bolt Bus, there is just one pick-up spot. After the bus loads there, you leave the city. I guess there's pros and cons to each bus service...depending on what you prefer.
The bus driver had heard there was a bad accident on 95, so he decided we would take a detour route - going over the Bay Bridge and through the Eastern shore, paralleling 95. He said it would add 15-20 minutes to the trip. But that's better than sitting in traffic. So, we finally got to NYC by about 1-1:30 p.m. - a long trip. One thing with taking the bus is, that even though you save a lot of money (roundtrip on the Washington Deluxe bus was $46 - and you can get lower fares on Bolt Bus), you have to deal with traffic conditions, and there's ALWAYS the back-up getting into NYC through the tunnel. You just SLOWLY creep with everyone else and "funnel into the tunnel." Too bad I just can't grab my bike out and bike into the city from that point. Though taking Amtrak costs lots more (over $100 each way), and you can have delays on the train, at least you don't have to deal with the traffic once you get to NYC. Pull into the station and get off the train, and you're up on the street in a couple minutes. It's more pleasant, not having to deal with the traffic, and see all the congestion on the roads.
On the return bus trip home, both the Washington Deluxe Bus and the Bolt Bus load up at the same location. So, it's a bit chaotic scene - lots of car traffic, lots of buses lined up, and lots of passengers lined up for the various bus lines. I got in line early (3:15) for a 4 p.m. bus. My friend held my spot while I went to grab some food to eat on the bus. When I came back 10-15 min. later, the line had grown to 50-60 people behind where my stuff was! There was one lady who was "in charge" of checking people's reservations and keeping them lined up. Finally at 4 p.m., our bus pulls up. It'd be nice if she would've gone ahead and collected money from passengers when she checked their reservations. That would have saved time. When boarding began, she saw my bicycle and sort of gave a look like she didn't know if the bus would have room for it. There was NO way I was gonna get on the bus without my bike, of course. I told her that it folded, and she said, "Well, you better make it as small as you can, because we have a lot of people and bags." So I folded it in half, and the bus driver had me put it in on the other side of the bus, and I got a seat on the bus.
We didn't leave til about 4:30 after everyone was loaded and fare money was given. Fortunately, there wasn't much traffic leaving the city, so we got out pretty quick. We did run into a back-up at the toll booths at Delaware Memorial Bridge, which can often happen. But sitting there on the bus, looking ahead at the gazillion brake lights, it was sort of strange feeling. I realized that I'm SO used to riding my bike everywhere, and the constant forward motion, that to be sitting at a standstill and creeping along, was like getting stuck in tar. You slowly muck through it, and it isn't pleasant. With biking, if you encounter traffic, you just slide by past the cars and continue.
Why anyone would want to have and drive a car in NYC is crazy - especially for getting around the city. Really, getting around any city, biking is better and easier. I just read in the news today an article about how horrible the traffic is in D.C. - that we're right behind NYC.
One last thing with the bus trip - it was very quiet til we stopped at the rest stop off 95, when we all had a 15 minute break to use the services there. When people came back on, and had food, etc., they were more talkative. There was one guy who was reading quite outloud, tidbits from his New York Times newspaper. He was reading it to his wife, but of course, everyone could hear him. And he didn't read well either! Near him, a lady got on her cell phone and started loudly talking to her girlfriend about various life situations. I turned around and gave her "the look" a few times, to give her the hint that she was talking a bit loud, but of course, she was oblivious. So I put on my headphones and turned on my MP3 player to try and drown them out. At least when you're on your bike, you hear sounds, but you pass by them pretty quickly and they aren't annoying. So, I decided to get off at the first stop (near Union Station), although I had told the driver I'd get off at the 15th Street stop. I just couldn't take being on the bus any more and the people yakking around me. Plus I figured lots more people would be getting off at the 15th Street stop, and it would take longer. I'm glad I got off at the Union Station stop - only about 5 people did, so it was less hassle. It felt great to get on my bike and pedal off towards home and feel the mild air rush past.