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Monday, March 31, 2008

Amtrak vs. Chinatown Bus

This past weekend was the first time I took the Chinatown bus from DC to New York instead of Amtrak. Let's compare the two:

Amtrak
Pro
> An hour or two faster
> More predictable travel time
> Cooler scenery (you see trees, marshes and the backs of buildings, which are invariably more interesting than the fronts)
> Usable bathroom
> Not sketchy (or, at least, sketchy in ways I find charming)
> It's a train!
Con
> About four times as expensive as the bus, even if you buy early
> Less flexible times

Chinatown Bus
Pro
> $35 round trip DC to NYC
> If you buy 30 minutes before it leaves, it's still $35
> I can see the DC stop from my desk at work
Con
> Dirty, slightly smelly bus
> Customer service likely to include yelling
> Potentially maniacal driving
> Slow, compared to the train
> Cramped
> Entering bathroom not advised

Cases in point on the sketchiness of the Chinatown bus: On the way out of DC, due to the broken overhead bin netting, a suitcase fell on me. Luckily it landed on my shoulder, not my head. Also, while on stopover in Philly, our driver suddenly came running down the sidewalk yelling in Chinese, ejected the guy collecting tickets on the bus, closed the door and immediately drove off down the street. Lord knows what was going on, perhaps the DOT safety inspectors were on their way.

It's hard to weigh what I'm willing to put up with to save 100 bucks. I must say, having your pick of hourly buses leaving Chinatown is pretty convenient. I'll probably split my future travel between the two, using the train when I'm planning ahead, and the bus for more last-minute trips.

3 comments:

gastropodblue said...

Which company out of DC did you take? I used a couple of really sketchy ones until I found Washington Deluxe--way less sketch and bizarrely run by Orthodox Jews.

I've heard Vamoose is decent, too.

teague said...

I used New Century Transportation. ("With our professional travel experiences, passengers will be riding in
confidence.") I've heard of Vamoose, but not Washington Deluxe...maybe I'll check them out.

Louise Rothschild said...

There is also a pretty swank one that leaves from Dupont Circle and has free wireless called DC2NY (complicated name). It was hella cheap, both Brownie and I have taken it. And they give you a bottle of water.