Riders recount rigors of a stifling trip from NYC

Air-conditioning out on sealed bus

Lindsey Sedlack and Ben Berkowitz entered South Station bus terminal yesterday evening after their hot ride from New York. Lindsey Sedlack and Ben Berkowitz entered South Station bus terminal yesterday evening after their hot ride from New York. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / July 22, 2011

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With temperatures in the 90s yesterday afternoon, about 50 passengers were trapped on a commercial bus with no air conditioning and windows that did not open during a ride from New York City to Boston, customers said.

“It was pretty . . . bad,’’ said Roger Kuhn, 35, of the South End, after the bus pulled into South Station at about 6:30 p.m.

Kuhn and other passengers said that riders on the vehicle operated by BoltBus, a carrier offering tickets for as low as $1, relied on personal water supplies to keep cool and received little information from the driver about the cause of the air conditioning problem.

And, passengers said, they had only one chance to exit the bus to get some air, during a regularly scheduled stop about an hour outside of Boston. During that time, they said, the driver opened an emergency escape hatch on the bus’s ceiling to try to provide some ventilation.

Though passengers said that effort failed, at least one rider described the atmosphere on the bus as relatively calm during the trip.

“I think we were all too out of it to go crazy,’’ said a worn-out Jerry Cheevers, 30, of Manchester, N.H.

When BoltBus spokesman Timothy Stokes was asked in an e-mail why the air-conditioning did not work, whether anyone on the bus became seriously ill, and if the driver could have stopped more than once to give passengers some air, he responded only that the company is investigating the matter.

Stokes said in an e-mailed response that BoltBus is working to provide a full refund to all affected passengers. He said ticket prices vary based on demand and the company typically does not provide average fares.

Tickets can be purchased for as low as $1, he said.

“The safety and security of our passengers is our core value and something we take very seriously,’’ Stokes said. “Given the unprecedented heat wave that has struck the Northeast, we are working to make sure our customers’ travel experience is as comfortable as possible.’’

Passenger Lindsey Sedlack, 23, of New York, said riders were told that the air-conditioning was pumping hot air because it was fighting with the weather outside, and that things would cool down eventually. That never happened.

Meanwhile, on Twitter last night, at least one potential BoltBus rider shared second thoughts.

“About to purchase [BoltBus] ticket for [tomorrow and] discovered one of their buses was [without] air conditioning entire ride,’’ one tweet read. “$100 for train?’’

Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.