Blog coverage sponsored by Drive Less Connect, ODOT’s sweet rideshare matching site.
The insanely cheap express bus service, which tomorrow starts running six times daily between Portland and Seattle with fares that start at $7 and top out at $25, is already adding direct service to Vancouver, BC, too.
Service starts May 31. Most fares to British Columbia will probably hover around $35, BoltBus General Manager David Hall said Wednesday – though earlybird fares to Vancouver seem to start at $15 and, like the Seattle service, one randomly selected seat on each bus will sell for $1.
Tickets to BC are available now – check it out. And yes, the wi-fi will still be free.
At BoltBus’s launch event in Pioneer Courthouse Square Wednesday, Hall shared some more details of this exciting new travel option.
1) BoltBus might expand to Eugene and Corvallis next.
It’ll depend on the Greyhound-owned company’s performance in the Portland-Vancouver corridor. “We don’t have enough buses right now.” Hall said. “We’re going to try this out and see how it goes.”
2) BoltBus is cheap because it sells mostly online.
Parking at the curb and letting passengers handle their own baggage saves some money, Hall said. But most of BoltBus’s advantage comes from its sales force, which consists almost entirely of computers.
“The Internet is an amazing sales tool,” Hall said. “It doesn’t get sick. It doesn’t call out. It’s never rude to a customer – 24/7/365, it just sells.”
3) Be on time, or else.
The buses only park at their curbside location – 6th Avenue and Salmon in Portland, 5th Avenue and S. King in Seattle, 1150 Station Street in Vancouver – for 15 minutes. Even if you’ve booked a ticket in advance, show up by the departure time or BoltBus may sell your seat to someone who shows up to pay cash on standby.
Only about 2% to 3% of customers are no-shows, Hall said. The most common no-shows? That’d be the people who bought their seats for $1. (Which comes out to a pretty good deal for BoltBus, actually.)
4) Holiday fares will be higher.
Like, maybe $30 to Seattle on Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hall said.
Because BoltBus’s variable price structure aims for 75% to 85% of capacity on every bus, fares will usually be much lower midday and midweek, with Friday nights often the most expensive. Currently, though, SEA-PDX fares top out at $25 for a walk-on cash purchase.
5) BoltBus is trying to add a bike rack in front.
Immediately after announcing their expansion into the Northwest, Hall said, “It became apparent to us that bikes are a big deal.”
The company says bikes can ride free beneath the bus in place of baggage, just as they do on BoltBus’s existing routes in the Northeast. But Northwesterners’ interest in bikes has the company worried about capacity – so they’re in talks with Oregon, Washington and British Columbia regulators for permission to add a bike rack, too.
Hall said that of tens of thousands of bikes hauled on the East Coast, he knew of only one that had ever been turned away because of space. That passenger got his bike on the next bus, he said.