Recently I've been impressed at how on the Northeast Corridor there's transit for everyone. At almost any price, there's some combination of speed, flexibility and quality that will get you from New York to Washington. And they're all operationally profitable for their providers. Here's what I was able to find for a Wednesday a couple weeks from now - and I'm actually leaving out a bunch of buses that are in the same price range, like Bolt Bus and the other Chinatown buses.
This gives people tremendous flexibility. Homeless and unemployed? An hour of panhandling and some library time, and you can get a Megabus ticket. Filthy rich? Helicopter or limo. And there's a whole range of small steps in between.
The small steps are key, because they take away a lot of the anxiety. Imagine you usually take the DC2NY bus. It's a little more than the cost of Megabus, but you get a more convenient pick-up location and a newer bus.
Now suppose you get a bonus at work, or you inherit a small amount of money from a relative. You can afford a little extra, so you pay twenty dollars more for a Northeast Regional train. It makes a lot of stops, but it's a smoother ride with wider seats, and you can get up and walk around.
So you take the train for a year and enjoy it. Then the money runs out and you're back on the DC2NY bus. It's kind of a pain, but you can deal. At least you're not standing in the cold with the Megabus riders. A small increase or decrease in your spending power translates into a small change in your comfort and/or convenience.
I'll talk about why this is so important in a future post.