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BoltBus is a new transportation option for Seattle. Photo by Kenudigit.

BoltBus is a new transportation option for Seattle. Photo by Kenudigit.


BoltBus' West Coast Launch Expands Affordable Regional Transportation Options

Lesley McClurg

This week, a new private bus service begins in Seattle, and the price is right. Soon, you'll be able to hop a bus to Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, B.C. for as little as $1. KUOW's Lesley McClurg reports.


A new bus service couldn't come at a better time. A recent mudslide shut down Sounder and Amtrak service for 48 hours. That scenario played out nearly 70 times in the past year, making the new bus an attractive travel option.

Larry Ehl was planning on taking Amtrak to Portland next week for a business meeting. But he changed his mind when he heard about Bolt. He traded in his $69 Amtrak ticket and bought a seat on Bolt for $7.

Larry Ehl is a transportation expert. He publishes the e–newsletter Transportation Issues Daily. He says the new service is good news for many reasons.

Ehl: "The population increase that we are looking at, our inability to raise the gas tax, our roads getting older; it's going to be harder and harder to build new roads and just take care of the roads we have today, so anything that comes along like a BoltBus that can help relieve a little bit of the congestion on our interstates is going to be great."

Bolt offers a direct service from Seattle to either Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, B.C. The Seattle–to–Portland line is their first West Coast service. Each bus includes at least one $1 ticket. Pricing works on a sliding scale: the earlier you book, the cheaper it is.

David Hall is the CEO of BoltBus.

Hall: "We always kind of price to demand, so there's always at least one $1 ticket. And then the price will go up. In the middle week of the week, the price might very well be $15, $16 on the high end. And then on the weekend, when demand is higher, we charge more for our service. The price could get up to the mid–20's."

Bolt keeps prices low by doing all their business online. They don't have ticket agencies, offices, bus terminals or even public bathrooms. You'll have to wait outside on the curb to catch a ride. Bolt has received complaints from businesses near their stops on the East Coast who say traffic and trash have increased since service began. Plus, riders could be delayed by I–5 traffic jams. But, Bolt has already sold 2,000 tickets for their Seattle–to–Portland run.

Should Amtrak worry about new competition? Larry Ehl says no.

Ehl: "You know what we may find a year from now is that BoltBus has taken more cars off the road than has taken passengers from Amtrak."

The shiny black and orange buses are outfitted with leather seats, electrical plugs, Wi–Fi and a flushing toilet. Service to Portland begins on May 17 and service to Vancouver B.C begins on May 30. Bolt leaves near the King Street Station in Seattle's International District.

For KUOW News, I'm Lesley McClurg.

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