As a devoted public transit junkie who had to find her way to and from NYC on a regular basis for school, I became an expert of every conceivable way to make the ~170 mile journey. Clearly driving was not an option – the tolls alone cost over $20, then factor in gas and parking, and you have an expensive, time consuming journey. And while Amtrak is a sexier choice than most when it comes to public transit, I found myself spending average of $100 each way for the regular train (the Acela, which is about 20 minutes faster, has nicer accommodations and Wi-Fi, but costs twice as much). But the train is not always smooth convenient sailing. Out of the six trips I’ve made, I’ve arrived late three times: once I experienced a power outage between Philadelphia and Baltimore, once I had to wait while they arrested someone on the train in Newark, NJ, and once I sat on the train for an hour as we rescued passengers from another train that had broken down.
As a poor college student and now a recent grad, the train is something of a luxurious splurge, so an economic alternative would be to take a bus. Having taken the greyhound (one way $40 or $36 with a student advantage card, and even less if you purchase your ticket online), I have had a few problem-free experiences, but too many unpleasant experiences to consider it, unless it is my only option. A cheaper option, and a bit more pleasant, is the Chinatown bus, which rolls up with a different unmarked bus each time. The cost is $20 cash on the bus or you can pay online. The experience is not horrible, but the pick-up and drop-off spots are often pretty sketchy.
Based on these experiences, none of these options can hold a candle to the Megabus, a life-saver for the eco-traveler on a budget. For the general public, this is exciting because it offers rapid intercity travel with tickets starting at $1 (yes that’s right, $1!), plus a $.50 reservation fee. Now this doesn’t mean that every ticket is $1, they start at that price and go up depending on when you buy your ticket and how many people have already purchased a ticket. It’s something of a game of luck, and it feels like winning the lottery when you can score your all-time low ticket price (before last week my all time best price was $8 round trip from Baltimore to NYC). So if you can book your trip a month beforehand, you have a decent shot at finding the $1 fare, especially on weekdays. If not, a day ticket from Baltimore to NYC is on average $17. Another awesome bonus is the buses themselves, which are all brand new (double deckers when going to and from NYC), clean, comfortable and equipped with free Wi-Fi and power outlets.
For this transit junkie, the best part of this deal is that the Megabus’ Baltimore stop isn’t in sketchy downtown Baltimore but right off of I-95 in White Marsh. Two other sustainable bonuses are that the bus is a certified green coach and you do not need to print your ticket since all you need to do is show them your confirmation number. I keep mine on my phone, so it’s paperless!
But wait, there’s more! If you haven’t taken the Megabus yet, be sure to make 2011 the year you try it. The Megabus used to only service the East Coast (it’s in the Mid-West too and started out in the U.K.) by going to and from NYC from various cities (including Baltimore and Washington D.C.) with NYC asvthe main hub. But starting in December 2010, Washington DC became a major hub offering stops in Richmond, Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, Knoxville, Hampton, and Christiansburg. So, theoretically, one could take the Megabus from Knoxville to Toronto! Wow!
But yet it keeps getting better! Megabus is giving away 200,000 free tickets from January 12th until March 1st! Check out the promotion here. The $.50 reservation fee still applies and you still need to use the same strategy of booking early to find the tickets offered for $0.00. I already booked my ticket for an interview in Connecticut that cost me $1.00 roundtrip from Baltimore to Connecticut and back – most exciting deal of my life!!!
So, if you haven’t hopped on a Megabus yet, jump on this deal and work on your Greener travel while on a budget resolution for 2011!