Bolt Bus captures my imagination
I’m a frequent traveler. While I’m known in my home town as “that guy on the bike”, I make my living traveling around North America, and sometimes globally. It would simply bore me to tears to use the standard forms of mobility, so I make a point of stretching myself as much as possible. It’s typical for me to mix modes of transportation just to change the scenery and perhaps learn something new.
So it’s fitting that on my recent trip to D.C. to teach an Innovation workshop to school administrators, a side trip to New York to visit family turned into a little education. In passing one day, I’d mentioned to my friend Dennis, from www.fixedgeargallery.com, that I’d be going from DC up the Bronx. He mentioned that he’d heard of a newer bus service that offered ridiculously low fares. A few clicks of the mouse later and I’d found the Bolt Bus. www.boltbus.com
Bolt Bus offers a unique experience in booking. Their premise, long lost to the logic of airlines, suggests that they benefit from customers who book early. Bolt is apparently a joint venture between Greyhound and Peter Pan bus services. Therein lies the classic complementary innovation of unlikely partners. They in fact offer an incentive program like no other I’ve ever seen.
How about a ticket to New York for ONE DOLLAR!?
Bolt Bus offers service, point to point, between the large east coast metropolitan hubs; Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore among them. No stops to pick up passengers. These are express routes only. They run these buses several times each day on a tight schedule, and if you’re the first person to book a seat on a given bus… that ticket is only $1.00. One greenback. Sixteen bits!
From there the price of each additional seat increments to a maximum (if you buy the last seat) of about $30.00. Five days in advance of my trip to the Bronx, I paid $15.00. Now I know you’re thinking, “sure Bill, you get what you pay for.” And in my experience with public/private mass transit, you’d be correct. Bolt Bus though does a great job of providing clean buses with state of the art accommodations including Free WiFi.
I hopped on my bus at DC’s Union Station on the upper level, three levels above Amtrak. Finding the boarding area was easy, though understanding what to do once I got there was not. Basically you’re asked to queue up in two lines, one for A passengers (the earliest tickets purchased), and another for B & C passengers, (later purchases.) At first I was disappointed as Bolt Bus had no staff on duty at the stop. The only people of authority were local security personnel and they were useless and in fact abrasive to anyone asking questions about where to stand, or what to do. One was so abusive, I decided to take her picture.
The Burr in an otherwise great booking innovation.
This security guard (hired I imagine by the Port Authority or Union Station) would turn her back on questioners, and say things like “That’s not my job, get out of my face.” or “You need to speak English.” This latter comment was laid upon three Asian tourists just trying to figure out what to do. A few of the passengers stepped in to assist them and all was well. But, note be taken, Bolt Bus should take care to understand how they’re brand is being represented!
Once the bus actually showed up and Bolt Bus personnel were there, the mood changed completely. Our bus driver was simply amazing. She engaged every single passenger, and at one point after saying “Good morning!” and getting no response from behind her, threatened to turn the bus around because her passengers were being rude and not listening. She said this with such grave parody that the entire bus erupted in laughter. Then when she purposely made the statement again, a clear choir of every voice on the bus sounded back “Good Morning!” It served to set a great tone and opened up the atmosphere for those of us on the bus to talk with one another. It was a very simple, yet effective, move.
The bus stopped once at a service area in New Jersey (with two hours to go) and gave everyone 15 minutes to stretch our legs. Right on schedule we showed up at Port Authority terminal on 42nd Street & 8th Avenue. Bolt has shared space with all the other bus services so is very convenient.
The Bolt Bus is a great innovation in booking, and for the most part a good follow through on promises. In order for them to do something better they need to deal with that darned security guard.
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