A new age of bus travel is headed our way.
Old-school bus king Greyhound today is rolling out new BoltBus-type upgrades to its service, including free WiFi, additional legroom, and power outlets on its New York-Montreal and New York-Toronto routes, and the company plans to offer the same amenities on its Boston-New York routes before the end of the month.UPDATE: The company started rolling out the new WiFi-equipped buses on the N.Y.-Boston service Thursday April 9.
Greyhound, the parent company of Bolt, are switching to Prevost X3-45 buses for this service, the same vehicles they use for Bolt. The move is part of a larger plan to upgrade its entire fleet. Abby Wambaugh, a company spokeswoman, said she was not aware of any timetable yet for the overall conversion.
"When we started with BoltBus,'' said Wambaugh, "we considered it sort of an experimental thing so we could see how the equipment worked and how it was received by customers.''
BoltBus, along with its chief rival Megabus, a unit of Coach USA, launched here last year, offering an alternative to discounters Fung Wah and Lucky Star on the Boston-New York route. With prices beginning at $1 a seat, both Bolt and Mega sought to lure younger, hipper riders with their upscale amenities.
While some can snag bargain basement seats, most Bolt and Mega passengers will pay something closer to $15-$20 each way, which is about what Greyhound charges -- and sometimes a bit less with the discounts for, say, students, the elderly, or military personnel.
So is Greyhound thinking of getting rid of Bolt and just competing directly with Mega?
Wambaugh says no. She notes that while pricing is more or less competitive, Bolt is a different brand, with a different image, and going after a different clientele. Wambaugh also notes that there are some real differences: Bolt offers curbside, express service; Greyhound is a more traditional terminal-based, potentially multistop ride.
What is clear is that things are looking up for bus customers.