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The bus choices

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June 29, 2008

BOLTBUS
One-way price: $1-$20, plus 50-cent online booking fee
Departure: Boston's South Station Bus Terminal, Gate 21
Destination: Across the street from New York's Pennsylvania Station at West 34th Street and 8th Avenue
Frequency: Almost every other hour from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Pros: Free Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, extra legroom, guaranteed seating, and flushing toilets. Plus BoltBus tries to hire drivers who are friendly and funny.
Cons: The new drivers might not know how to get to New York as fast as other bus lines' more experienced drivers.
The final word: Who cares if the ride takes an hour longer because the driver doesn't know any shortcuts around the gridlock? As long as the Wi-Fi is working, this is the best way to go.

FUNG WAH
One-way price: $15
Departure: Boston's South Station Bus Terminal, Gate 25
Arrival: 139 Canal St. in New York's Chinatown
Frequency: Hourly from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and a few other times.
Pros: The boarding process is efficient because there aren't any reservation codes to check off or bar codes to scan.
Cons: The on-board restroom didn't have toilet paper. And there has been a spate of headline-making mechanical failures and accidents over the past few years, including a fatal one last week that wasn't Fung Wah's fault.
The final word: If we want to go to New York's Chinatown, we'll stick with Lucky Star. Why pay more to ride a bus company that's not so lucky?

LUCKY STAR
One-way price: $1-$15, plus a 50-cent online booking fee; $25 for the 2 a.m. departure
Departure: Boston's South Station Bus Terminal, Gate 13
Destination: 59 Chrystie St. in New York's Chinatown
Frequency: Hourly from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and a few other times.
Pros: The boarding process is fast, like Fung Wah's. And its free frequent-rider program rewards passengers with key chains, water bottles, and - after 25 one-way rides - a complimentary one-way ticket.
Cons: Like Fung Wah and Greyhound/Peter Pan, you have to make a calculated guess on how early to line up to ensure you get on the next bus. The last riders to board usually wind up sitting in the back, within a whiff of the nonflushing toilet.
The final word: If price is your biggest concern, it might be easier to find $1 or other super-cheap tickets on Lucky Star than on the much ballyhooed BoltBus and MegaBus.

GREYHOUND/PETER PAN
One-way price: $30-$57
Departure: Boston's South Station Bus Terminal, Gates 3 and 4
Destination: Inside New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal, West 42nd Street and 8th Avenue
Frequency: At least hourly 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and a few other times.
Pros: It's easy to travel beyond Manhattan by transferring to other Greyhound buses at the Port Authority. And you can pay $5 extra for priority boarding so you don't have to stand in line early just to get a good seat.
Cons: The cheapest ticket costs about twice as much as competitors' most expensive ticket. And there isn't even free Wi-Fi.
The final word: This is a good choice if New York City is not your final destination, or if it will be raining or snowing since this is the only line that picks up and drops off passengers indoors in New York.

MEGABUS
One-way price: $1-$14, plus 50-cent online booking fee
Departure: Boston's South Station Bus Terminal, Gate 12
Destination: Outside New York's Pennsylvania Station at West 31st Street and 8th Avenue
Frequency: Every other hour 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and a few other times.
Pros: Free Wi-Fi and guaranteed seating. It's easy to transfer to the Long Island Railroad.
Cons: The cumbersome boarding process requires the driver to find each rider's 18-character alpha-numeric confirmation code for their e-tickets. And what good is free Wi-Fi without an electrical socket since your fully charged laptop battery will die halfway into the ride?
The final word: This is almost identical to BoltBus, but falls short. We'd ride MegaBus only if BoltBus is sold out or considerably more expensive for the time we want to depart.

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