A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nonstop bus service from Portland to New York City?

At the beginning of this month, New Hampshire's C&J Trailways started offering direct service from Durham and Portsmouth to midtown Manhattan in a five-hour daily trip. The buses will be equipped with extra legroom, and travelers will shave 30 minutes off their trip by not having to transfer buses in downtown Boston, as was previously required for a bus trip to New York.

Since this is a trip my wife and I make on a fairly regular basis, I naturally wanted to know whether Concord Coach was thinking about doing something similar from Portland, Maine. Their official reply: "At this time we are carefully monitoring the demand and evaluating our options."

Sounds good to me!

But on a closer look, would Concord Coach be able to compete with current options? The C&J service only runs once a day (twice on Fridays), early in the morning, whereas the Concord Coach/Chinatown connection offers buses nearly every hour, with only a short layover in South Station. The nonstop option is only convenient if you're planning an early morning departure from New Hampshire and an afternoon return trip from New York.

Plus, there's the price. A one-way trip from Portland to Boston plus a Chinatown bus from Portland to the Lower East Side currently costs $33: $18 to Concord Coach, and $15 to the Chinatown operators. C&J's $75 fare comes a long, long way from beating that price. Even JetBlue flights from Portland to New York are frequently cheaper than C&J's price - people in Portsmouth could drive out of their way to the Portland airport to make the same trip faster and at a lower price.

But airports are a hassle, and so is arriving at JFK, in the outskirts of Queens. If Concord Coach can set a competitive price, I'd be willing to pay close to airline rates for a convenient, comfortable bus that drops me off in Manhattan with my bike. I hope they can make it happen.

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