By Naomi Graychase
March 26, 2008
With its new BoltBus service, Greyhound is hoping to lure commuters, students, and business travelers who can benefit from free on-board Wi-Fi access.
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Greyhound has launched a new service that will offer affordable tickets (as low as $1 each way when purchased in advance online), slightly more leg room (three inches, to be exact), and free on-board Wi-Fi to travelers in its major Northeastern corridors.
“BoltBus” will make its maiden voyage tomorrow between New York City (33rd and 7th) and Washington, D.C. (11th and G). To promote the launch, tickets for all seats for travel this weekend (starting tomorrow through Sunday) are one dollar if purchased in advance online.
With this new service, Greyhound is cutting costs while also catering to its new generation of customers, a more Internet-enabled crowd than the typical bus travelers of yore.“We think customers will really enjoy the ability to be online while traveling,” says Dustin Clark, a Greyhound spokesperson. “Basically, we’ve targeted this consumer segment that we thought would really enjoy express point-to-point service between these cities—students, business travelers, commuters—people who would actually benefit from being able to stay connected. If they need to do work or school work, a typical bus trip is three to four hours that would normally be lost time—now you’re not losing any time.”
The enticing $1-$7 discount fares (plus a transaction and booking fee) will continue to be offered for some seats on every BoltBus trip, but will only be available to customers who purchase tickets online. Travelers who purchase tickets in person at a counter will be charged at least 30% more per ticket than online shoppers buying seats on the same bus. They will also board last and will not be guaranteed a spot on BoltBus.
“Part of the reason we can offer such low prices for this product is that most of Greyhound’s costs are associated with our terminal operations—employee overhead and costs in terminals. We can offer BoltBus as a different product at an inexpensive price because we don’t have all of that overhead. Booking online saves the company money and allows us to pass that savings on to our customers,” says Clark.
Boarding will be done in the manner of Southwest Airlines, with numbers awarded to passengers, which denote boarding groups. The numbers are distributed when online booking is completed (so it’s important to make a note of your confirmation number). Last-minute travelers are out of luck: online ticketing is only available up to two hours before departure.
In addition to offering free Wi-Fi, which Greyhound admits may be very slow or spotty, BoltBus seats are equipped with 110v electrical outlets so that passengers can power their mobile devices without draining their batteries. If you have dreams of watching streaming video (hello, Netflix!) during your trip—think again. The 802.11g access with cellular backhaul tops out at 3.1Mbps for downloads, with more typical rates of about 900-1400Kbps. With unlimited electricity, but the potential for sluggish or non-existent Wi-Fi, travelers may be better served by downloading video ahead of time–or bringing along DVDs.
The company does intend to monitor network performance, however, and will add more access points if the service is not fast enough to satisfy customers.
“I’ve been on a bus and [the Wi-Fi connection] was lightning fast, but I was the only one on the bus. When you get 51 people on the bus–and they are all online–it’s bound to be slower. If we need to add speed to make it faster we have the option to do that,” says Clark.
Next month, Greyhound plans to launch BoltBus service along the popular New York-Boston corridor and will also add service between New York and Philadelphia. Service between all BoltBus destinations will be daily and the lowest fares will continue to be limited to a small number of seats and given on a first-come-first-served basis.