Andy Seligman, a 2007 alumnus, was frustrated with the unpleasant bus rides, pricey train tickets and aggravating plane trips that came with shuttling back and forth between the District and New York.
Banking on the idea that plenty of other people traveling between the two cities want a new way to get there – and are sick of wasting valuable Netflix time fidgeting with spotty MegaBus Wi-Fi – Seligman will launch a new high-end transportation service from D.C. to New York on Friday.
The Royal Sprinter, the bus service which was unveiled at a premiere party Wednesday night, will make its first four-and-a-half hour ride to and from New York, where passengers can enjoy the onboard comforts such as 4G internet access and individual-sized displays with DirecTV service.
“The ‘royal’ part of it was ultra luxury, very high-end, unlike anything else out there,” said Seligman, who majored in business administration. “The ‘sprinter’ part really is a two-part thing. We’re not a bus and I don’t want to be categorized in a bus category. I’m not a train. I’m not a plane. We’re not a van, really.”
Seligman gave tours of the bus at the event as people inspected all of its features. Even with all eight passengers on board, the seats fully recline. The sleek black and wood interior makes it feel more like a high-class office space than a mode of transportation.
At a flat rate of $90, passengers don’t have to worry about booking early to take advantage of cheaper tickets. Tickets on Amtrak usually range from about $80 to $150 for coach.
“I think it’s really a wonderful approach. I have often taken the other buses and I like the cost of $22. This is more, but if you get stuck in traffic, which we often do, there’s a certain feel of luxury. It’s very nice,” said Sheila Weidenfeld, a New Yorker and former assistant to President Gerald Ford, at the launch party.
The Royal Sprinter’s route has two D.C. departure times, 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., and will return from New York City at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Seligman said the company could add a third bus traveling from Virginia to New York. Afterwards, he hopes to have a service coming from New York in the morning and going back from D.C. at night. Someday, he said, the Royal Sprinter may expand to Philadelphia.
“I think if you look at a fair comparison for the times you leave and arrive and you look at the availability to book, how far in advance, I think our prices are much much more reasonable [than competitors’], particularly for what you’re getting,” Seligman said.
Seligman said he hopes it will appeal to everyone, from business travelers or students to couples going on a weekend trip or parents visiting children in college, keeping in mind his GW roots. About 550 first-year students listed New York or New Jersey as their residency two years ago, according to the latest data from the Department of Education.
“I went to GW, so I know a lot of the students there are from New York and from that area, so I think a lot of them go up to visit, so I do think it’s a resource for them,” Seligman said. “GW’s a wealthier school and some of the student body wants more and is willing to pay more.”
But some students have mixed feelings, citing cheaper options like the BoltBus. A ticket on the bus is only $15 and still boasts leather seats.
A few customers at the launch party were also concerned about not having a restroom on board. However, Seligman said he and his team felt that a bathroom took away from the luxury.
Freshman Connor Horgan said he’d also board the Royal Sprinter a couple times a year.
“I would take it. It is expensive, but it sounds very worthwhile, although it would be a very rare occurrence. I would only do it once a year, maybe once every two years,” Horgan said.