Review: We Tried the New “Luxury” Bus From New York to DC
The Jet hopes that high-tech reclining seats and free booze can make bus travel a viable train and plane alternative
Is the best way to travel between the power corridors of NYC and DC actually on a bus?
That’s the enticing promise behind The Jet, a new luxury motorcoach service that just launched a direct route between the two East Coast cities. At $99 one way (and a bit of a surcharge for single-seat rows), The Jet is offering extensive legroom, enhanced wifi, an on-call attendant, and free beer and wine for a maximum of 14 passengers in a retrofitted 45-foot bus.
But it’s really about the seat.
Utilizing something called HoverSeat technology, these extra-reclining thrones feature adjustable lumbar support and a footrest that kicks out and makes you feel like you’re snoozing on a Laz-Y-Boy (that recline goes up to 70 degrees, by the way). We recently tried out an hour-long test ride out of NYC near Hudson Yards, and besides the ridiculous amount of comfort and space, we were impressed by the seat’s motion-canceling tech. (It’s also the first time on any mass transit I’ve heard someone say, “Wait for the seat to calibrate.”)
“The seat is keeping you level as you move,” explains company Founder & CEO Chad Scarborough, a native New Yorker who’s lived in Washington, DC, for most of his career. The former ad agency exec was originally inspired to create a luxury bus line back in 2010, when he was stuck on a “crappy” bus ride between NYC and DC with his girlfriend at the time. “The AC wasn’t working, the traffic was terrible, there was no water,” he remembers. “I thought, it doesn’t have to be this bad.”
About that seat: you really won’t feel any motion during your time on the road, which makes it ideal for resting, reading or watching something on your phone or tablet (there are also outlets for every passenger). “If you put your feet on the ground you’ll feel how much the bus is moving,” Scarborough explains. “And if you’re outside, you can see the seats moving up and down.”
A few other cool features aboard The Jet:
- It features an air filtration system “traditionally used by ambulances,” as Scarborough notes. Another pandemic-related safety measure includes a reduced seating arrangement from 19 to 14 chairs, which means there’s six feet of social distance per row. (Note: The Jet has a vaccination requirement for all crew and a mask requirement for all travelers.)
- Very robust in-bus wifi, which in our limited test ride worked exceptionally well … or, at least, better than wifi on Megabus or Chinatown bus services that really never work, as I say from extensive riding experience with those bus lines. “We found the guy who did the wifi for Facebook and Google employee bus shuttles to do ours,” says Scarborough. “It’s strong enough for everyone to stream simultaneously.” (Note: On a four-hour ride, we cannot say if this’ll always be true.)
- Yes, there’s food and coffee, albeit nothing overly fancy (think cheese plates for $5). As for the beer and wine, it’s currently free, albeit limited to one drink per hour per passenger. “To charge, we’d have to get a liquor license for every single county we go through,” admits the founder.
Now, The Jet is a bus. No escaping those limitations, or any socioeconomic stigma associated with that mode of transport (to which I say, get over it, but also, this admittedly isn’t the new Golden Age of Travel). It means, even if the Jet leaves on off-peak hours as it’s scheduled to do, you’re at the whim of traffic and particularly at the mercy of the gridlock coming in and out of Manhattan — always the most annoying part of any bus trip in this area. And the bathroom, while spacious, well-lit and supposedly kept clean by that on-board attendant, is still just a single unit on a moving, swaying vehicle.
Luxury buses aren’t really a new concept; Vonlane is a similar operator with a long track record in Texas, for example. But the idea has never taken off on the Eastern corridor, and offering a travel option that, yes, takes a little longer than Amtrak or a plane ride but at a similar or cheaper price point with a decidedly more comfortable seat means you’ll just have another option. We did some very quick comparison shopping: booking a Friday, Nov. 19 one-way trip from D.C. to NYC could cost anywhere from $20 (Peter Pan Bus Lines) to $59 (an Amtrak leaving before 5 a.m.) to $144 and above for a flight. Obviously, all those prices would change based on time of day and how far ahead you booked. But The Jet is certainly cheaper than renting a car.
The Jet soft launched this week between Hudson Yards in New York and Metro Center in Washington, DC, with prices starting at $99 one way. The service will eventually get up to leaving around four times per day (departing on off-peak times), but it’s primarily geared toward weekend passengers — think Thursday-Monday for your comings and goings.
“This is the premier transit market, I can’t see why no one has done this,” Scarborough says as our short test run comes to a stop. For this one specific route, you may want to consider taking a seat.
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