The Battle of the Buses
Written by Bwog Staff
If you’re heading home via bus this Thanksgiving weekend, make an informed choice! Here, Bwog correspondents persuade you to ride DC2NY, Bolt, VamooseBus and, in an impassioned, extended defense, Fung Wah.
My experience with VamooseBus is a prime example of brand loyalty. When I first went to visit Columbia without my parents, my Columbia friend recommend VamooseBus. At the time, it was only $20, $35 for a round trip, and left from right outside my high school. It was still a fledgling service — another high school friend and I each had a set of two seats to ourselves, and, although the Subway system proved complicated at the time, (we called the 1 Train the “red line”), Vamoose and the friendly, overweight orthodox Jews who sold the tickets, were quite easy to deal with.
Since then, I’ve made countless trips from DC to NY and back. Vamoose was run out of the District by a rabbinical court ruling, upheld by an appeals court, and had to move to nearby Arlington and Bethesda, prices rose from $20 to $25, and the service got popular, so the buses are actually crowded. But the people are friendly, the seats are guaranteed, four tickets gets you a free pass, and they sometimes show good movies. It also seems to be the student’s choice bus — I’ve run into old elementary school friends on the Vamoose more than a couple times. On my two Chinatown bus experiences, one bus was overheated for the entire and the other stopped in Philly and Baltimore before heading toward D.C. With Vamoose, on the other hand, not only is the climate consistent, but the drivers always make the trip in four hours, pulling moves like taking back-road highways in New Jersey if I-95 is running slow.
I’ve heard good things about Bolt and DC2NY, but Vamoose has given my no reason to switch.
AND AIN’T NO GODDAMN CONGRESSIONAL STAFFERS! :)
— David Iscoe
Working in Washington DC for the last two summers, I had long been a reluctant denizen of the Fung Wah, careening my way up and down the Eastern Seaboard with all the other poor souls who can’t afford the train. And then, wonder of wonders, capitalism caught up with the transportation market. Some genius figured out that if you offered a bus service that was clean, timely, predictable, professional, and most important, friendly–all things that don’t cost much to provide–you could charge a small premium over the Chinatown lines, and customers would flock to it.
Before Megabus and BoltBus came in with their fancy pricing models and web of destinations, DC2NY made this happen for one prescribed route (it’s in the name) which is all some of us needed. It costs only about $25 each way, has wireless, always runs on time, and even gives you a snack upon boarding. I’ve come to recognize the drivers, who are relaxed and rule their buses with firm kindness. It has attracted a young Congressional staffer-type clientele, so even if the trip is packed, people are clean and well-behaved. Above all, they’re happy, shocked, and grateful to finally be treated with some shred of human dignity. When I get on a DC2NY bus, and I might as well be home.
— Lydia DePillis
Bolt Bus needs no defense, but here goes. Its plush seats (some buses even have leather), wireless internet, and decent prices are reason enough to go for this new line. I used to be a proponent of the Chinatown bus, despite the fact that they were difficult to access (who wants to go all the way to East Broadway to get a bus) and frequently overbooked during the holidays. However, Bolt Bus snagged me with it’s $1 promotional tickets and the fact that it departs from Penn Station. Sure, they might come an hour late and take 5 hours for a trip that should take 4, but you enjoy every second of your time on the Bolt and quality movies or the internet are there to distract you the whole time.
Now that the prices have gone up, Bolt’s comparative economic advantage has dwindled, but if you are going to book a trip a month in advance that is not during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Independence Day, you will have no trouble securing a seat during optimal traveling hours for between $5-10. Even the maximum price of $25 one way is not terrible compared to the regular Greyhound or, god forbid, the train, and you know you will get a seat (your priority number is printed on your ticket). In short, Bolt Bus is a cheap, comfortable way to ride home for the holidays. It has better wireless reception than Butler, more comfortable chairs than John Jay dining hall, and will take you anywhere between DC and Boston in style.
— Justin Vlasits
Charles Lindbergh once said, “If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” Today, we have essentially two options of bus to travel from New York to Boston/Philly/DC: the Fung-Wah Bus, classically known as “The Chinatown Bus”; and a new, flashier generation of MegaBuses, BoltBuses, and other Power Rangers-influenced vehicle names. Pragmatically, stylistically, and sentimentally, the choice is clear. The Chinatown Bus is better.
First, purchasing a Chinatown Bus ticket beats the process and costs of purchasing tickets from any other bus company. To buy a Chinatown Bus ticket, you exchange a straight 15 bucks, several feet from the actual bus itself. Sometimes, mere minutes from departure time. Occasionally, seconds. The Power Ranger buses universally demand that you buy online, requiring additional Internet and service fees, locating your credit card, printing shit, memorizing reservation numbers. In a word, the Power Ranger buses expect you to plan ahead. They flaunt the possibility of $1.00 tickets, but you have to know your exact time and place at least a month ahead of the fact, and even longer before for holiday departures, to reserve these tickets. If you don’t know your precise schedule this far in advance, The Power Rangers can shoot up to $25.00. And we are college students with unpredictable schedules. One of my Wednesday classes was canceled this week. Then, a professor moved the due date of an assignment forward to Wednesday afternoon. Then, my parents moved to Canada. And won’t tell me why. The Chinatown Bus respects the fluctuation of life, which is why it is always and forever fifteen bucks.
The Chinatown Bus is not really that dangerous. I’ve taken it to and from Boston somewhere upward of twenty times in my whole life, without even the slightest problem. But don’t take my word for it: check out the Wikipedia page. It lists only six notable safety issues in the bus’ history to take account of, and the last one sounds like it was totally that dump trucks fault. This number is reasonable, given the tremendous number of buses are driven. People exaggerate the minor mishaps they’ve encountered. And even though that’s pretty legitimate because I like to exaggerate too, given the statistical likelihoods of these safety problems, you’ll have a comparable experience with safety on the Power Ranger buses.
While the Power Ranger buses boast about having the Internet (most often used to spend another 25 minutes reserving your return bus ticket), the Chinatown Bus amenities are actually far superior and more unique. Right next to the Chinatown Bus ticket counter rests a hidden gem – the famed hole-in-the-wall hot dog stand Jumbo Hot Dogs, reviewed as one of the best and cheapest insider hot dog joints in the city. Perfect before a four-hour trip. On the trip to Boston, The Chinatown Bus reliably stops at the biggest McDonald’s rest area in Connecticut. Always incredibly well timed to a ninety-minute REM nap cycle. And most importantly, people on the Chinatown Bus are intriguing and animated. You’ll find people of all sizes, shapes, colors, and ages. Sometimes, people snore loudly. Sometimes, people talk loudly about the snoring. Often, the people are kind of weird. But they make you think.
Ultimately, we need to be reminded of why we are emotionally attached to The Chinatown Bus. I believe lyrics in Bishop Allen’s song “The Chinatown Bus” aptly reflect some of this sentiment:
“I remember Shanghai, how I wasn’t sure just what was safe to eat.
The chickens pecked and wandered at the barefoot of the children hawking figurines of workers smiling.
What’s the Chinese word for cheese?”
More than any other bus today, The Chinatown Bus revives the childhood sense of adventure and curiosity. As Lindbergh feared, transportation — and our lives — have become overwhelmingly no-nonsense, slick, and ordered. And though there are certainly merits in that, life is far more interesting when it’s a little chaotic, messy, and mysterious.
— Tony Gong