The Boston-to-New York bus wars are revving up, and the newest gladiator's arsenal includes complimentary onboard wireless Internet access and guaranteed seating.
Vamoose, the newcomer in the game of hurtling motorcoach passengers down the interstate, will run one bus from the Hub to Manhattan every morning and one bus back every afternoon starting Nov. 8. On Fridays and Sundays - the busiest days on the four-year-old bus company's New York-Washington, D.C., route - Vamoose will run three or four buses in each direction.
The Hasidic-owned company based in New York will provide riders with free WiFi on its leased buses, which are equipped with routers. But the company said some buses may not have enough electrical outlets to recharge each passenger's laptop, cellphone, or iPod during the four-hour ride.
Neither Greyhound Lines Inc. nor Chinatown bus companies Lucky River's Lucky Star and Fung Wah Transportation Inc. offer riders WiFi on the road.
But as a perk, surfing the Internet en route may pale against being assured a seat. Vamoose is selling one-way reserved seats for $22 over the phone and the Internet; tickets cost the same if bought in person, but those passengers will be on standby until 10 minutes before departure, after all the reserved seatholders have settled in.
"We know we have 56 seats. That's the only amount we'll book," said Florence Bluzenstein, who runs Vamoose with her husband and their 24-year-old son. "That's the difference between us and the rest."
In contrast, the Chinatown buses sell their $15 one-way tickets to as many riders as are willing to buy them, regardless of the availability of seats. Greyhound, which shares buses and routes with Peter Pan Bus Lines, also oversells one-way tickets - for $35 if bought in person or $15 if purchased online. Ticket holders who don't get on must wait for the next departure, which could be the next hour or the next day.
Lucky Star and Fung Wah did not return calls for comment yesterday afternoon.
Greyhound said yesterday it has been testing guaranteed seats this month for Boston-New York and Dallas-Houston customers who were willing to pay $5 more each way, but the bus company was still evaluating the program.
Later yesterday, Greyhound spokesman Dustin Clark said the bus line will implement the program in select Northeast markets and possibly elsewhere in the country. He also noted customers without guaranteed seating can use their tickets for up to a year.
"They're not necessarily limited to traveling on that day on that schedule," he said. "Our customers really enjoy that."
The increase in low-cost competition along the Boston-to-New York route hasn't always turned out well for customers. Fung Wah, for one, has faced scrutiny for a series of safety and other violations.
But the route remains popular among college students and bargain hunters who don't want to shell out airfare.
Nicole C. Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.