Boltbus is Not All That Nice Roll Bus Roll, by Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard

Read no further if entitled brats whining about a lack of wifi bothers you.

Okay, you were warned.

I might have mentioned once or twice that I took a two-week trip to Portland recently. I had a swell time. Bikefun-wise, Portland when the sun is shining is like an effing paradise. I still have about ten-thousand topics for future posts to share with you from the trip. So there's that to look forward to.

One of the things I was psyched about while planning my trip was that, since I was planning on returning to Seattle over the weekend, I'd have two round-trip trips to book. A perfect opportunity to compare the two forms of mass transport between Seattle and Portland which allow for passengers to easily bring a bike along, Amtrak and Boltbus! After all the hype about Boltbus, I was pretty enthused to enjoy all the features touted on their website and that I'd heard set the service apart as a kinda "Greyhound Plus".

Let's take 'em one by one, shall we?

WI-FI- Broken. I was soooo psyched to write to you all from the road and was super bummed to find the wi-fi not working on my first trip. If I wanted to be disconnected from the internet, I'd crawl into a cave, dammit! A cave in the past.

EXTRA LEGROOM- I rode in an unaltered Greyhound. No really, there were still little Greyhound logos on all the fixtures! It was just as cramped as I remember from my many many trips miles "Riding the Dog" on the East Coast.

PLUG-INS- Not at my seat. Notes for this piece were written on a dying battery in msWord, for Pete’s sake! No power outlets on a bus? What is this, the dark ages? I had to read a book! Shudder.

$1 FARES- My trip cost $43 bucks. Now, that's a good price, within $5 of the Greyhound and almost $100 cheaper than Amtrak. Still, I don't understand what's up with the $1 fare thing and neither did my driver when I asked him.

BOARDING GROUPS: apparently, "Boarding Groups eliminate the stampede."- They do not! One of the big cost cutting measures for Bolt Bus is the elimination of terminals. No charming, filthy, mid-century purgatory lobby to wait whithin and eventually queue up in,  just a huge crowd of people wrestling with their bags on the sidewalk. We definitely jostled.

RESERVED SEATING: "Every purchased ticket guarantees a seat."- Wow, that is a very low bar for success. But, expectation met. I was not forced to stand all the way to Portland!

Of course the real reason I was taking the Boltbus at all was their policy on bikes as luggage. Basically, that's the policy. Bikes are luggage. That in and of itself is great, you can bring your bike with you! But there is no provision made to transport your bike at all safely or neatly. The bike stowage is just your bike, on its side, in the luggage compartment. I’ve laid a bike in the back of a van or hatchback enough times to know that I might have been sad when those doors opened in Portland. On the way back to Seattle, there were around ten bikes on my bus. The driver was stumped as to what to do and bikes just wound up dumped on top of one another in the luggage hold. I heard that at least one passenger's bike was damaged. I think a few moving blankets and some sturdy twine would go a long way.

From my notes during the first trip:

Oh my god. I am on a bus, having a not great experience, and am totally sitting here angrily blogging about it! I’ve actually been tweeting about it on my dying phone, too! I’ve arrived! I’m a whiney, bloggy, grump! I hope I can live with that.

Amtrak, on the other hand, has great wifi and power outlets, serves beer, is a beautiful ride, provides an entire train to pace if your butt falls asleep, gives free foot rubs, makes you smarter, and is fun as hell! I love the train. Too bad it costs so damn much.

Being able to take my bike is the most important feature of all. I've recently learned that Amtrak does not allow long bikes, like the ones so many of us Pedal Parents use to haul our kids. This is a disappointment to me. As a non-driving parent who needs my long bike on both ends of my trip, this policy makes a trip out of town much more difficult. I have no idea what would happen if I tried to fit my cargo bike on the Boltbus. Anybody ever try it?

In conclusion, between the two, Amtrak is clearly superior, but it is also much much more expensive. Boltbus does not provide a "Greyhound Plus" experience. Without even a shelter to wait for the bus within and several advertised features missing or broken, it was much more of a "Greyhound Minus."

I guess you get what you pay for.