Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"You can get here by bus!?"
November 9, 2010 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Want to get to that town in the next state on the cheap? Sure, there's Greyhound, but it's hardly a bargain at $32 for a journey from Seattle to Portland. When you really need to save the cash, use Epic Transit Journeys wiki to plot your route entirely on local transit carriers, allowing you to get to Stumptown for only $11.50 and a paltry five transfers. For a truly epic journey, cross international borders for the trip to Vancouver, BC, which includes a lovely 2.9 mi stroll across the border. Oran Viriyincy's travelogue of this trip includes lots of photos of buses and trains, and the border official's shocked reaction.
posted by grouse (42 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, that's really awesome. I used to take Amtrak, which was something like 6-7 hours long (wasn't always, but as we let the rail infrastructure continue to degrade...), so 9 hours on public transit isn't too bad.
posted by yeloson at 5:03 PM on November 9, 2010


Since Google Maps added Amtrak schedules in the US it seems like it's tough to get a long-distance route that doesn't use Amtrak, at least up the west coast. Otherwise I've plotted some longish journeys on Google like Philly-NYC all via local transit.
posted by GuyZero at 5:08 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a nice link.

I envy this chap, who got the entire length of the UK on local buses (for free...).
posted by cromagnon at 5:09 PM on November 9, 2010


Oh edit button, you fickle, fickle mistress.
posted by cromagnon at 5:10 PM on November 9, 2010


I think I found a shorter route to Stumptown.
posted by Cogito at 5:24 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seattle to Portland for $32 isn't a bargain? That's 175 miles of driving you get to leave to them. Airfare is 10X that.
posted by Tashtego at 5:25 PM on November 9, 2010


I wonder if this could be done for Buffalo->Toronto. About 10 years ago some friends and I did a "transfer" from Buffalo's Greyhound depot to the Depew Amtrak station, and it involved a bus ride to the city limits and then a good deal of walking. We were so happy to find a motel near the Amtrak station...

Looking at a map now that walk was only 2.5 miles... maybe it seemed longer because of the heavy backpacks, or maybe because we were young and bored.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:25 PM on November 9, 2010


Somebody's gotta add Philly to NYC
posted by ph00dz at 5:27 PM on November 9, 2010


Their Vancouver-Victoria route info is outdated, but I'm scared to edit that wiki markup.
posted by twirlip at 5:27 PM on November 9, 2010


NYC to Philly should look about like this: NYC subway system to New Jersey Transit (or is it the PATH?) to Trenton. From there you can apparently hook up with SEPTA into Philadelphia proper. I'm not sure about the specifics of transfering between the NJ and SEPTA systems, whether you have to trek from one end of Trenton to the other or there's a light rail station somewhere that does that. Also can't really speculate about the time, as I've never taken NJ Transit further than Newark Airport.

Now if you could get from NYC to Boston, or NYC to DC, that would be interesting.

One hitch with these plans, though, is that here on the East Coast we have the ever popular Chinatown Buses (and now Megabus, BoltBus, etc) which offer extremely competitive bus fares. It's only $15-20 to take a bus directly from New York to either DC or Boston. There's no way public transit could beat that, and even if it could, the difference in price would be easily accepted due to the convenience.
posted by Sara C. at 5:37 PM on November 9, 2010


Ahem, Seattle to Portland airfare is most assuredly not "10x $35."
posted by nonmerci at 5:45 PM on November 9, 2010


I rode with Evan in the local bike gang, before he moved to Tacoma. I've long been tempted by his Seattle to Ocean Shores route, dreaming of the summer day that I bail out of work at noon and ride buses 'til I can see the mighty waves of the Pacific crashing ashore.

Tangentially related to Evan's work has been that of another member of our nerdy little club: Brandon Martin-Anderson has been working on a project called Graphserver for automatic multi-modal trip planning. Some of these connections require a bike or can be performed more efficiently with one - one of the big limitations of most current automated trip planners is that they assume a 1-2 mile radius for transfers.

These approaches are important because they underscore just how (perhaps surprisingly) far-reaching our transit network currently is, and how technology can hopefully help us expand its reach and convenience.
posted by lantius at 5:54 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yep, just started figuring out NYC to Boston, out of curiosity - it looks like it wouldn't be cost effective at all compared to Megabus or the like.

Megabus NYC to Boston, leaving every few hours, express and including on-board wifi: $15

Any point on the NYC bus or subway system to Grand Central Terminal: $2.25
Grand Central to New Haven, CT: $13.30 if you go at off-peak hours
Total = $15.55, and that's barely halfway.

For the curious, right now it looks like it could be possible, if you weren't particularly interested in saving money: NYC>New Haven, CT>Meridien, CT>Hartford>Springfield, MA>Worcestester, MA>Boston. Things get spotty between Springfield and Worcester, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. I might be missing a few big towns with expansive bus routes somewhere. It's also possible that there's a better route via Providence.
posted by Sara C. at 6:09 PM on November 9, 2010


It looks like you can get from downtown Buffalo to the border in Niagara Falls NY on two local bus routes, walk across the border, and then take a GO bus to Toronto. But GO is almost cheating because it's such a far-reaching system.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:21 PM on November 9, 2010


Out of curiosity, what would be an affordable way to get from New York to Atlanta (that's not flying)?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 6:27 PM on November 9, 2010


Now if you could get from NYC to Boston, or NYC to DC, that would be interesting.

DC to NYC is totally doable!

1. MARC Train from DC to Perryville, MD: $11
2. Cecil County Bus from Perryville, MD to Elkton, MD: $2
3. DART Bus from Elkton, MD to Newark, DE: $1.15
4. SEPTA Train from Newark, DE to Trenton, NJ: $9.50
5. New Jersey Transit [PDF] from Trenton, NJ to New York: $15.50

$39.15! Er, that's more than a round-trip on the chinatown buses. From a transit-geeky perspective it's pretty cool that it can be done -- sounds like you could even make it from DC to Boston on local transit! But yeah, no one's saving any money doing it this way.

The real challange is to figure out a way to do it without commuter rail.
posted by av123 at 6:33 PM on November 9, 2010


suburban beatnik - not counting Amtrak, I'm not entirely sure it can be done seamlessly.

Lack of public transit coverage, or even just affordable inter-city ground transport, in that part of the country drives me CRAZY. I have a friend living near Nashville and it's basically impossible for me to get there from New York without flying. I've even looked at flying into Atlanta or Charlotte, and it's still impossible to get there without an expensive schlep on Greyhound.

Aside from the obvious issue (mountains), is there a reason for this? I mean, isn't "Chattanooga Choo Choo" the most famous song about trains ever?
posted by Sara C. at 6:45 PM on November 9, 2010


You could take the DART bus from Newark to Wilmington and then from Wilmington up to the tri-State Mall in Claymont where you could catch the 113 SEPTA bus to 69th street in Upper Darby. Then you can take the Market Frankfurt line into Philly.

After that I'm stumped. And god knows how long that would take.
posted by interplanetjanet at 6:47 PM on November 9, 2010


New Jersey Transit not only raised fares, they got rid of off peak discount fares.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:48 PM on November 9, 2010


This is so much easier on the coasts. I tried to see if it was possible to do a Chicago-Milwaukee trip this way, but once you get off Metra in Kenosha there's no bus that will take you across a county line. There's about a three-mile walk to get from Kenosha's furthest-north bus to Racine's furthest-south one. And that's probably the most consistently urban stretch between two major cities in the whole Midwest. Oh well.
posted by jackflaps at 6:55 PM on November 9, 2010


Sadly, Los Angeles to San Francisco is not the coastal route, but via Delano, Tulare, Visalia, Dinuba, Delft Colony(?), Kingsburg, just to get as far as FUCKING FRESNO. I lived in that area for the worst year of my life (and never heard of "Delft Colony", was it colonized since 1980?) and fear the 3-day trip would take another year out of my life. No. Just NO.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:58 PM on November 9, 2010


I did the Seattle to Vancouver, BC route last October. It was definitely longer and cheaper than Amtrak, and in some ways much more stressful (because if you miss a connecting bus? You're *screwed*). But it was also a lot of fun, and I'd definitely do it again at some point. (The next trip will be either Seattle to Forks or Seattle to Portland).

I did a writeup on my LJ afterwards, at the hostel. And of course, there is also my Flickr set of the trip, which isn't in any sort of chronological order.

The upsides of the trip:

1. Getting to see some really interesting and desolate parts of WA state that I would otherwise never see.
2. Meeting interesting people on the way.
3. Once you get to Blaine, you can relax a bit, and there is a really great little coffee shop that's just a few blocks from the border. There's also plenty of currency exchange places right there, so there's no need to change it beforehand in Seattle.

Downsides:

1. Even though you are traveling on the bus, it is exhausting, especially if you're carrying a backpack.
2. It's hard to eat during this trip, as there's not a lot of time between connections, and a lot of the buses prohibit eating on the bus. And depending on how strict the driver is, your trip could be aborted right then and there by sneaking on and eating that burrito wrap. Next time I do this I'm bring a lot more nuts and trail bars, things that are easily consumable on the go.
3. Definitely bring better shoes! Because my Converse? They just didn't cut it.

But it's definitely a unique way to travel, and I recommend it if you have the chance!
posted by spinifex23 at 7:03 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


NYC to Philly should look about like this: NYC subway system to New Jersey Transit (or is it the PATH?) to Trenton. From there you can apparently hook up with SEPTA into Philadelphia proper. I'm not sure about the specifics of transfering between the NJ and SEPTA systems, whether you have to trek from one end of Trenton to the other or there's a light rail station somewhere that does that.

The Trenton Transit Center has everything you need; this is how I took a couple of trips to Manhattan. Subway to NJ Transit, NJ Transit to Trenton, walk across the building to transfer to SEPTA, which will take you as far south as Wilmington if you transfer lines in Philly.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:04 PM on November 9, 2010


It's possible to get to Boston from New York City via the Long Island Railroad and a series of ferries from Montauk to Block Island to Newport, and then a Rhode Island transit bus to Providence, and after that commuter rail to Boston! How cool is that? Considering the going rate for some of those ferries, it might be cheaper to fly. But still.
posted by Sara C. at 7:13 PM on November 9, 2010


This is admirable.
posted by carter at 7:59 PM on November 9, 2010


It used to be possible to take buses [incl Greyhound though] all the way from my small town to Montreal (including across the border to Canada), before the bus stopped stopping in my town. I also figured out a way to get from my tiny town down to Boston using a combination of commuter buses, regular buses and subways. I'll have to add some stuff to the wiki. Neat post.
posted by jessamyn at 8:09 PM on November 9, 2010


i think the difference between seattle to portland and something like nyc to philly is that there isn't really shit between here and there (seattle to portland). it's beautiful for sure, but the towns along the way are mostly pretty small and quite rural and spaced out quite a bit.

no offense to olympia. and tacoma, uh, hey tacoma.
posted by rainperimeter at 8:11 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Color me flabbergasted. I tried to figure out the PDX to SEA route once and was totally stumped. Now that I live on the east coast, I've been wanting to do this kind of travel. Any MeFis in the DC area want to give it a go?
posted by Skwirl at 8:15 PM on November 9, 2010


" I saw trains testing on the Canada Line in Richmond. I observed many things about Vancouver’s public transit system that I wished we had or did in Seattle and some things from Seattle I wish was in Vancouver." - if Roy Batty was a public transport geek...
posted by Devonian at 10:21 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's kind of like the train system here in Japan, which criss-crosses just about everywhere. You can take a local train and transfer, transfer, transfer your way across the country for peanuts. I knew a guy who needed to get from Osaka to Tokyo, but he had no money. That's a two hour flight, a four hour bullet train ride, but he did it on local trains from the first train early in the morning (about 5 a.m.) until the last train at night (about 12 p.m.). And did it all with local trains.

A bullet train ticket is about $150US, but this way was something like $20. (And even better, if you are bold enough to crash through the turnstile at your destination, you can just buy the minimum fare, about $1.50, and just crash on through when you get there. The turnstile flaps will close and it'll start beeping loud, but you can just push them open and be on your way. Unless a cop or station clerk is standing right there, no one will stop you.)
posted by zardoz at 10:48 PM on November 9, 2010


There's a periodic television special about this in Japan. It's actually pretty doable, even if you avoided the normally well-traveled routes, but you have to be prepared to walk if there are any gaps in service or you miss the single bus of the day.
posted by armage at 1:13 AM on November 10, 2010


Subway to NJ Transit, NJ Transit to Trenton, walk across the building to transfer to SEPTA

Shoot, when I went NYC-to-Philly, at Trenton I think I just had to walk across the PLATFORM.

(I also know of an amazing hostel in Philadelphia, so I've always had Philly in mind for a way-cheap "I need to get out of town for a weekend" destination.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:20 AM on November 10, 2010


Why are people talking about getting out of New York for cheap without mentioning the Chinatown Bus?

Seriously, NYC to Philly is $10, Boston is $15, and DC is $20. No transfers, no stops.

The New York depot is about four blocks from five different subway stops. Other depots are similarly located.
posted by valkyryn at 5:33 AM on November 10, 2010


When I lived in Tacoma, and my younger sister lived in Port Angeles, she came to visit me on the bus a couple of times...most memorable being Christmas 1996, since she left Tacoma on what turned out to be the day the 1996 Ice Storm started. She made it as far as Port Townsend, and then discovered that the Clallam County buses had stopped running. Amazingly, the driver of the bus in Port Townsend let her stay with (his? her?) family for the night; I think she finally made it home sometime the next day. (The kicker? She was hopelessly underdressed for the weather; IIRC she was wearing old sneakers with holes in them and no socks.)
posted by epersonae at 7:38 AM on November 10, 2010


valkyryn, the Chinatown Bus and its Anglophone offshoots (Bolt, Megabus, etc) have been heavily mentioned in this thread. But it doesn't seem to be within the scope of the original post, so those of us who are doing these transit pipe dreams on the East Coast aren't including that.

But, yeah, that's why it's not really worthwhile to go participate in the original Wiki on the subject of the East Coast - no way would I recommend someone spend $40 to take probably 10 transfers on slow and inconvenient intra-city transit to get to DC when they could just pay $15-20 for an express ride with a reserved seat and free wi-fi.
posted by Sara C. at 10:30 AM on November 10, 2010


A minority of the people who participate in Epic Transit Journeys are doing it to save cash. It's more of a chance to engage in unabashed transit geekery. Just for the avoidance of doubt, my framing of this post was tongue-in-cheek.
posted by grouse at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2010


Shoot, when I went NYC-to-Philly, at Trenton I think I just had to walk across the PLATFORM.
That's about what I remember as well.

I flew in to Philly years back because it was several hundred dollars to fly from Manchester NH to Newark, and fifty after tax to fly to Philadelphia. At that point, I was willing to deal with the cost and extra time of mass transit. It involved taking a SEPTA train to downtown Philadelphia, then another to Trenton. The NJ Transit Northeast Corridor line goes right into Manhattan (Penn Station). Granted, I got off in Rahway and had a friend drive me the rest of the way, but I could have continued to Secaucus Junction and grabbed a train on the Raritan Valley line and been dropped off two blocks from my (then) apartment.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:38 AM on November 10, 2010


Sara C.

I did it for the Epic Transit Geekery.

Sure, I could have afforded a cushy seat on Amtrak, where I could buy real food and eat it without the risk of getting kicked off in rural Whatcom County, but somehow I thought that sharing a leaky bus with some people who were commuting from Bellingham with their Wal-Mart shopping would somehow be more fun.

And it was.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:06 PM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Chinatown buses are a great way to go for cheap. there's a comprehensive list at chinatown-bus.org

I found out I could get from boston to dover for like $35.. -___- after taking amtrak there so many times for a bit more than that..
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 9:09 PM on November 10, 2010


But, yeah, that's why it's not really worthwhile to go participate in the original Wiki on the subject of the East Coast - no way would I recommend someone spend $40 to take probably 10 transfers on slow and inconvenient intra-city transit to get to DC when they could just pay $15-20 for an express ride with a reserved seat and free wi-fi.

I took Bolt Bus once -- it was an hour late, which meant I had to stand outside Penn Station in the FREEZING COLD for an hour and could no longer feel my feet when I finally got on the bus. Which was overbooked and had no luggage space, so I also had to bring my suitcase on the bus with me. And put it under my feet. And the Wi-Fi didn't work. And then the bus was THREE HOURS late getting to Boston, making me miss my connecting bus to Cape Cod -- and making me call my parents to look up the T schedule online (bear in mind, part of this necessitated explaining how to TURN THE COMPUTER ON) and figure out where they could collect me from on the T line instead.

The one time I took the Chinatown bus, I heard that moments after I pulled out of the station, another bus on the same line was pulling in -- and went too fast and crashed. The bus I was on had just narrowly escaped being slammed itself.

...I prefer multiple transfers to "imminent frostbite" and "near-death experiences".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:07 PM on November 10, 2010


I've taken those sorts of buses all the time over many years (more often to DC, but same companies and basically the same trip), and never had a problem. Not so much as a late bus or a broken heater.

The other great thing about the Chinatown bus phenomenon is that it's forced Greyhound to cut their prices in order to stay competitive. So there's always that.
posted by Sara C. at 10:40 PM on November 10, 2010


The other great thing about the Chinatown bus phenomenon is that it's forced Greyhound to cut their prices in order to stay competitive.

....Hmm. Not that I've noticed so much.

Look, what I'm saying isn't a blanket condemnation of Chinatown or Greyhoud or the like. It's just a reminder that, even though the Chinatown buses do exist, there are those who don't feel they're a viable option -- for reasons which are to them quite valid -- and so something like this is a good alternative. And that's why it IS "worthwhile to go participate in the original Wiki on the subject of the East Coast."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:13 AM on November 11, 2010


« Older 3 year old Jonathan conducting to the 4th movement...   |   "The Science of Godzilla,"... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments