The modern airport experience is not an enjoyable one.
Security lines, forever-rising ticket prices, and seemingly arbitrary fees all create a stressful and pricey experience for inter-city travel.
Some are looking to other forms of transportation for an alternative. Amtrak had record ridership numbers in 2014, tallying 11.6 million passengers along the Northeast Corridor alone.
And a study from the Chaddick Institute shows that inter-city bus ridership has also risen by an increase of 2.1% since 2013.
Yet buses are cramped and slow, earning their spot at the bottom rung of the transportation ladder. Trains aren’t getting any faster, either, as the nation’s rickety rail infrastructure ages and high-speed proposals are stymied.
I travel from New York City to Boston frequently, usually by bus. But after countless trips with my legs folded up like origami in uncomfortable seats, I’d just about had enough.
I had heard about LimoLiner, a luxury bus service that makes three round-trips between New York and Boston Monday through Thursday every week. It makes more trips between cities over the weekend.
With perks like free meals and individual leather seats, LimoLiner made Megabus sound like a stagecoach in comparison.
On a recent trip to Boston, I decided to compare LimoLiner with an Amtrak regional train to see which one offered a more comfortable experience for the price — and I was surprised by what I found.
I was pretty excited to be taking the train after so many terrible bus rides to Boston and back. I boarded the Amtrak train at Penn Station, a cavernous and ill-conceived tangle of walkways and escalators beneath Madison Square Garden in New York. No one wants to go to Penn Station.
The train left right on time after a painless boarding process, and within five minutes we were zipping through Queens.
At $128 one-way, the train isn't wildly expensive, but it's not exactly the lap of luxury. Of course, the prices differ depending on the departure time -- my train left at 7 a.m.
Plus, coach is considerably less expensive than business class and much less costly than the Acela high -- speed train. This is the coach experience: one aisle, two seats on each side, similar to the average economy class flight.
The cloth seats are roomier than the typical plane seat, but at the end of the day, you're still stuck next to someone else unless you luck out with a barely filled train.
Leg room is adequate for a tall guy like me, but nothing noteworthy. I can cross my legs, but just barely. If anyone reclines their seat in front of me, all bets are off.
The seats have a fold-out work table, and each one has literature to keep you occupied if you're really bored. Unfortunately, no hilarious train version of SkyMall just yet.
The table is big enough to hold a laptop easily, even my old behemoth of a computer. The Wi-Fi is a little on the sluggish side, though it was free.
The train was keeping time well and we rolled into Stamford in about 50 minutes. The regional train usually makes seven stops from Penn Station to South Station in Boston.
There's a cafe car in the middle of the train, offering sandwiches, drinks, and snacks -- at a price. I passed on the $4.50 trail mix and bottled water for $2.25.
And the bathroom ... is a bathroom. Not a chaotic nightmare, but it's a little messy and there's the strong cleaner smell that often accompanies a public restroom.
The train rolled into South Station in Boston at 11:10, five minutes ahead of schedule. The entire trip took four hours and ten minutes. Not bad, considering I've heard stories of Amtrak trains being over an hour late due to freight train traffic.
I may be biased, but South Station is quite a refreshing experience compared to Penn Station. I can see sunlight!
After a delightful weekend in Boston, it's time to head back to New York. I find my way to the LimoLiner bus boarding area, directly in the shadow of the Prudential Tower in the heart of the Back Bay neighbourhood. I booked the 3 p.m. bus, which left punctually.
I step on, and I'm impressed immediately. There are widely spaced leather reclining seats for all -- that alone is worth the flat price of $89 for a ticket, in my opinion.
The bus smells like nice leather, and there's gleaming wood everywhere. Well, it could be plastic, but it looks nice all the same. There are large TVs all around, which show news or movies.
There are storage bays for large luggage and overhead space for carry-ons. Overhead storage is aeroplane-style, with closed compartments above each seat. The bus attendant will gladly help with any overhead luggage. There are even pillows in the overhead should you want them.
The bus runs on the highway, so the views aren't always the prettiest, but there's plenty of sun coming in from the large windows, and there are shades if you want to sleep. The ride is a bit bumpier, but the comfy leather seats sure help.
Each seat has a fold-out work table as well. They're a little on the small side, but I can make it work with my laptop. The Wi-Fi is slow, but faster than Amtrak's and easier to connect. Like on Amtrak, connecting to Wi-Fi is free.
Complimentary beverages, including soda, water, juices, teas, lemonade, and coffee, are available -- just ask the attendant. Plus, there's another cup holder in the seat!
A complimentary meal is served on a red place mat. I chose a chicken parmesan and pasta dish. The other option was a grilled chicken salad. There are also vegetarian options, which you should note when you order your ticket.
Sure, it's microwaved, but it's really not bad considering. Hot all the way through, the cheese is melted, and the chicken is moist. Plus, need I repeat: It was free.
Snacks -- like chips, pretzels, fruit snacks, popcorn, and cookies -- are offered later in the ride.
The bathroom is probably the nicest bus bathroom I've ever experienced. While that may not be a high standard, it's still pretty nice. The room is bright and clean, and there's even art on the wall.
The bus drops off at the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue in Midtown. The downside was the length of the trip: Their schedule claimed the bus would arrive in the city by 7:40, but it was 8:15 by the time we disembarked.
I'm massively impressed by the LimoLiner service. Considering what I got for $89 -- comfy seats, meal and drinks, snacks, and amenities like Wi-Fi and outlets -- this bus beats Amtrak easily. Amtrak is generally much more reliable than a bus, and I'm sure the business class train experience is a different experience. But for the price, LimoLiner is my choice.
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