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Royal Sprinter: The Newest Contender on the DC-NYC Travel Scene

by on March 25, 2014 · 21 comments

in amtrak, car services

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Starting April 4, Washington, DC restaurateur and real estate leasing agent Andy Seligman will launch Royal Sprinter, a luxury van service that will travel between DC and New York. Joining Vamoose, Amtrak and the Bolt Bus, this is just the latest in a fleet of options for frequent travelers up and down the I-95 Corridor.

The interior of the Foyal Sprinter (photo by Terry Minix)

The interior of the Royal Sprinter (photo by Terry Minix)

Royal Sprinter will initially roll out in two customized 14-foot Mercedes vans, each with eight diamond-quilted leather seats in a staggered layout designed to keep passengers from rubbing elbows. Two onboard routers enable the complimentary WiFi, and each reclining seat has its own seven-inch flatscreen monitor with 150 channels of DirectTV (including HBO and Showtime), as well as its own extending leg rest, tray table, cup holder and overhead cabinet space. Stocked fridges can be found onboard, and passengers can help themselves to snacks and bottled water, but there are no bathrooms onboard. Priced at $90 each way, the approximately four-hour journey will travel between the Park Hyatt at 24th & M Streets in DC or the Embassy Suites in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and the Loews Regency New York Hotel at Park Avenue & 61st Street. The Sprinter’s daily roundtrip service will travel DC-New York from 7-11:30am and New York-DC from 3pm- 7:30pm.

The Vamoose Gold Bus

The Vamoose Gold Bus

Among the competition the Royal Sprinter is joining is the business-class Vamoose Gold Bus, which 36 reclining leather seats in a 1 x 2 configuration (as opposed to the cloth-covered 56 seats in a 2 x 2 found on the regular Vamoose bus). For $60 each way in a range of 4- to 5 1/2-hour journeys, Vamoose Gold offers one to two daily roundtrips between New York’s Penn Station from the Virginia Railway Station in Lorton, Virginia, with stops near the Metro stations in Rosslyn, Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland. WiFi is complimentary as well, and seats come with 110V AC power outlets as well as tray tables, cup holders and overhead bin space.

The Bolt Bus

The Bolt Bus

Though it’s the least glamorous option, the Bolt Bus offers nine daily trips (between 7:30 am-11pm) from DC’s Union Station to a choice of two New York stops: near the Javits Convention Center or down on 6th Street between Grand and Watts. One-way, non-stop service to either stop ranges from $20-28. Each air-conditioned bus has 50 wide, leather-upholstered seats in a 2 x 2, configuration, WiFi is again complimentary (and provided via hotspots at a speed that are less than ideal for large downloads), and there are 110V AC power outlets at every seat.

Acela first-class service on Amtrak (photo by Amtrak)

Acela first-class service on Amtrak

Venerable standby Amtrak continues to be the most expensive option overall, but also the quickest; travel time between D.C.’s Union Station and New York’s Penn Station averages 3 hours or less. Two trains take this daily route almost every hour, the Northeast Regional (21 daily roundtrips, 3:15am- 10:10 pm) and the high-speed Acela Express (16 daily roundtrips, 5am-8pm); low-bandwidth WiFi service is available to all passengers on either of these trains. On the Northeast Regional, one-way prices for coach seats vary between $49 (unreserved and non-refundable), $84 (reserved and refundable with restrictions) or $164 (reserved and fully refundable) and $125 for unreserved business class seats. Acela Express has no coach seats; one-way business class starts at $259 and first class at $347.

Both the Northeast Regional and Acela Express offer complimentary, low-bandwidth WiFi and have club cars offering snacks and coffee. Northeast Regional business class seats and both business and first class seats on the Acela Express come with 120V AC power outlets, extra legroom, fold-down trays, and overhead storage; only Acela’s first class, though, comes with at-seat attendant and meal service, as well as access to Club Acela lounges at both train stations.

One of two customized, 8-seat Royal Sprinter vans

One of two customized, 8-seat Royal Sprinter vans

With prices relatively comparable to Amtrak coach seats, travel times that line up with Vamoose and Bolt, and more amenities than just about any other option (aside from Acela’s lounge and attendant perks for about three times the price), it’ll be interesting to see if Royal Sprinter will win the high-end commuter race from DC to New York. The seats certainly look nice, and the amenities sound good, but I personally wouldn’t be thrilled to be in a van for 4 hours without the chance to get up and walk around. However, I might just try it out myself next time I’m traveling between the two cities, but if you get the chance to before me, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • NguyenVanFalk

    Silly. I’d rather just take Amtrak, have access to a bathroom and terminate at Union Station than sit in a stuffy, small van that I have to schlep up to 61st and Park to catch. Can’t see this gaining much popularity.

    Also, it’s 6th Ave between Watts and Grand for the BoltBus, not 6th St.

  • diondi

    Uh, a 170-foot van is a bit long, isn’t it? That’s a REAL land yacht…

  • NYCWahoo

    I’ve traveled between these 2 cities over 100 times last 13yrs. The bus option is fine except Friday afternoon rush hours and Sundays. During those peak hours your trips can go from 5 1/2 to 8 hours on I-95

  • RakSiam

    There are other bus services as well. MegaBus has lots of daily departures between DC and NYC. I think tickets are $20-30 each way. Tripper Bus goes from the DC suburbs to downtown Manhattan for a bit higher fares with about 4 or 5 daily trips.

  • SeaBee3

    That is what I was thinking! I kept repeating the length to myself and trying to figure out what kind of vehicle this is! :)

  • ndesq

    You guys do that. I’ll stick to the Delta Shuttle.

  • TrainGuy

    Done that trip as a driver, done that as a passenger, done that on the NR Regional (ie coach), done that on Acela, done that in an aeroplane. No way am I going to pay prices comparable to the train to risk getting caught in a sh**show on I95. If you’re paying that much to take that trip, your time is probably valuable enough that you don’t want to risk it either. Now if only we had a European-style train system on the East Coast, that would be awesome.

  • TrainGuy

    *NE Regional…

  • Patrick Folger

    For that long of a road trip and cost could just fly R/T from DCA to JFK for around same price ( Just checked Kayak and R/T on AA for $178 ). Take Sub from JFK to City for $10 RT and still around price for Van/Bus and even much less than Amtrak. Do people really take this road trip?

  • Kioly

    JFK to Manhattan on the subway may be cheap but still takes awhile. The bus and train stops are a lot more convenient in both cities.

    I’ve traveled DC Union Station – Midtown on Megabus RT for $4.50. You can’t beat that price.

    The train is a much more pleasant ride, is less subject to delays, and best of all- NO TSA.

    IMO, flying is only worth it if you get elite status through segments.

  • Kioly

    If you’re the first person to book a certain itinerary on MegaBus you get it for like $2.50. Imagine if airlines had a fare bucket like that with a single seat available!

  • sunglassesadvil

    This post is lacking. First, there are errors. For example, the bus is clearly not 170 feet long, and Acela tickets start at well below $259 – I believe $180 is the starting price. Second, there are omissions from the post. There are plenty of other bus options, as others have mentioned. Megabus, Tripper Bus, etc. Also, Vamoose Bus has a regular, non-gold bus that’s competitively priced with Bolt Bus. Also worth mentioning is that Vamoose has a pretty good loyalty program that essentially amounts in a free ticket after every 4 rides.

  • Turnip Truck

    I take it you’re from somewhere without much in the way of public transit. I don’t think there are many people who voluntarily FLY from NYC to DC unless there’s some real time constraint involved. The train is infinitely more convenient and comfortable.

    I’m trying to imagine a four-hour bus trip sans bathroom. That does sound pretty unpleasant.

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  • http://jb510.com Jon

    A 170 foot Mercedes for 8 people sounds awesome! Perhaps that was supposed to be 17ft…

  • Kioly

    Which buses don’t have bathrooms?

  • http://www.CheersandGears.com Oldsmoboi

    I can’t imagine the ride in these things to be particularly comfortable. That is a 170 INCH wheelbase van, not a 170 FOOT long van. Sprinter vans tend to be very tippy feeling and not especially great at handling potholes.

    Leather seats or not, I can’t imagine being trapped in a glorified airport shuttle for 4 hours.

  • sunglassesadvil

    Tons of people take this road trip – I do all the time. I usually book last minute to go home (I live in NY but my family lives in the DC area), so flights are much more than that, and Amtrak usually is. So I’ll often take a $25 Vamoose bus, which drops off in Arlington where my parents live, and rarely takes over 4.5 hours.

    Sure, the train is 1 hour faster, but last-minute often costs $150+ each way. Sometimes, if I really need to get there quickly, I’ll use UR points transfer to Amtrak – 4,000 points for a $150 ticket is a pretty good redemption rate.

    Also, unless you pay for a cab to one of the NY airports, which will cost $40 for LGA or $70 for JFK, it takes at least an hour to get to each airport on public transport, and is pretty inconvenient. If the plane and train fares are at all comparable and you have to get between the cities as quickly as possible, I don’t know who would pick flying. That is, unless you are traveling for work and can expense cab fares – then I might fly for status purposes.

  • Dean

    NE regional on Amtrak tends to be the best value, but only if you’re booking at least a month in advance and can grab a $98 round trip fare. The Acela is 4x the price and shaves off less than have an hour in travel time.

    Buswise, I’d add DC2NY, which has been operating for a long time. More reliable than Bolt, with the same amenities, and $29 each way.

    Like Kioly said, flying is only worth it on the shuttle if you do it a lot, live near an airport, and are accumulating segments.

  • NguyenVanFalk

    Take LIRR to jamaica for JFK airtrain, takes 25 min to get to the terminals.

  • sunglassesadvil

    Definitely a better option than subway, but 25 minutes is a little aggressive. For example, I live 15 blocks from Penn Station, which is a pretty central location, and if I plug that route into Google Maps and choose LIRR it averages just about an hour, given average wait times – 11 minutes to get to Penn Station, ~10 minute wait time for LIRR, 22 minute LIRR time, 2 minute walk to AIrTrain, few minutes to wait for AirTrain, then ~10 minutes on AirTrain, depending on terminal. But let’s subtract the time it takes to get to Penn Station because that’s where the buses leave from, so that leaves us with a 50 minute trip still.

    Obviously, if you live in different locations it might be a little quicker, but when you consider everything including average wait time it’s definitely more than 25 minutes to get to JFK. It’s still a fine option, but much of a hassle than just walking 11 blocks for me to take Vamoose bus, which leaves at 30th & 7th, or a few blocks more to take Amtrak. To me, flying to DC is only a good option if I’m going to DC for work and can expense a cab ride, otherwise it’s not worth the extra hassle.

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