Vamoose : between New York and Washington, take the bus!
The distance between New York City and Washington DC is a mere 200 miles or so, but the area is one of the most densely populated in the United States and if you want to minimize travel time, cost or stress, you may want to pay attention to the logistics of getting from one city to the other. There is a myriad of options to select from for travel between the two cities, and more alternatives are cropping up every day, as I found out when we started planning for this week’s trip to New York from Washington.
The fact that our destination is downtown Manhattan quickly rules out the option of driving myself the four-hour ride to New York. The ride itself, through the crowded highways of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, demands the constant attention of the driver. In addition, I have no stomach for the hassle, cost and danger of parking my car in Manhattan. My wife and I prefer a less stressful mode of transportation!
Flying is of course an excellent option, as both New York and Washington are served by three major airports each (Newark, La Guardia and JFK for New York, Dulles, Reagan and BWI for Washington) and there are flights between the two cities throughout the day. Reagan is especially convenient for people leaving from downtown Washington, people like members of Congress, who can reach the airport in less than ten minutes. I happen to live in the suburbs, thirty minutes away from each of our three airports, so I have to factor that in. Add to that the facts that you are being asked to arrive at the airport a couple of hours ahead of flight time in order to go through check in and security, that you have to think about what you can or cannot bring with you on a flight, that upon arrival you will have to drive from the destination airport into Manhattan anyway, and the whole idea of flying those 200 miles becomes somewhat less attractive.
For those commuting from downtown Washington to downtown Manhattan, the train is one of the preferred modes of transportation. Both Union Station in Washington and Penn Station in New York City are major railway hubs, are both located in the downtown area, and have frequent and regular express train service between the two stations. Amtrak’s Acela Express train would certainly be one of my favorites way to reach New York, if we happened to live in downtown Washington but we live outside the city proper.
Which brings me to the best option for us, the bus. Not any bus, mind you. There are about a dozen bus lines providing direct bus service between Washington and New York City. I was flabbergasted to see that one bus line sells some seats everyday for the total price of $1 for the trip between New York and Washington. Unfortunately, that $1, or for that matter the $12 regular non-discounted price for that same seat, will not result in the same level of service we enjoyed on the French Riviera, where we were paying about 1 euro to travel anywhere on the Riviera in clean and modern buses.
Express intercity buses link the major cities of the northeast part of the United States, and the fares are low, very low, perhaps too low sometimes to allow for the necessary security and maintenance practices. I can’t help wondering how a company can afford to offer a $1 or $12 seat for a trip between Washington and New York , a distance far greater than the length of the French Riviera, and still provide a safe clean bus and competent driver. Reading the consumer reviews online did not inspire me with a great deal of confidence.
Fortunately, competition and demand have resulted in more luxurious bus options with only slightly higher fares. There are several bus lines, with prices around $25 to $30, which offer clean, modern buses, with conveniences such as guaranteed seating, free wi-fi, a bottle of water, a newspaper, etc… Some now even offer satellite tv. Three of those bus lines happen to have their departure point within a ten to fifteen minute drive from where I live.
Of the three, Vamoose Gold is my favorite and that is the bus we are taking today to New York City. At $60, its price is by far the most expensive bus option, but far less than what the train or plane might cost you. The main advantage of the Vamoose Gold bus is the extra legroom it provides, which means not only a much more comfortable ride, but also many fewer seats, a much less crowded and therefore a much more peaceful and serene environment. There is free wi-fi, a tray table, a power outlet, a bottle of water, the daily newspaper and a reclining seat with a large headrest. And a very clean though small toilet.
The trip is usually nonstop, directly from our departure point in Bethesda to Penn Station in downtown Manhattan, and takes about 4 and a half hours. I have all that time available to work or relax and know that I will arrive in New York City ready to roll!
But Vamoose Gold is getting increased competition and I need to get up to date on the latest offerings. Our return trip from New York to Washington will test one of the even more luxurious options recently introduced on the Washington to New York bus market.
Meanwhile, stay tuned to BonVoyageurs as we are about to arrive in New York and start our adventures in the footsteps of Woody Allen!
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