I didn’t have plans to go out of town for Thanksgiving this year, but I knew where to find a lot of people who did: Union Station. A bigger crowd than ever was making a Wednesday getaway, thanks to the newly remodeled bus deck that’s now home to most of the major intercity bus lines.
In keeping with an agreement announced over the summer, part of the garage was restriped and reconfigured so it could take bus arrivals and departures off of the streets. Over the past few months, Bolt Bus, Washington Deluxe and DC2NY have moved in. The latest addition is Megabus, which was what 19-year-old Danny Won was planning on taking to New York for the holiday. I asked him how the new digs compared with Megabus’ previous location at North Capitol and K streets NW — a spot that lacked shelter from the elements and was a longish walk from the Metro. “A bus stop is a bus stop,” he said. “As long as I get to where I need to be, it’s fine.”
Won’s definition of “fine” is different than mine. Other than the fact that no one seemed totally sure where to stand (I got “We’re hoping we’re in the right line” a whole lot), the Union Station bus terminal is a dream. It’s connected to Metro, Amtrak, commuter trains and tons of places to grab a bite to eat. It’s covered, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s pouring outside. And except for a few close calls with people sprinting while wielding large bags, my life never seemed to be in danger.
It was just 10 or so years ago that the only option for catching a bus in D.C. required trudging to the creepy Greyhound terminal in a neighborhood that had yet to be NoMa-fied. That’s why we rejoiced to have competitors come into town, even if riding the new buses meant standing on random corners, nervously hoping that other people with duffel bags would show up and confirm that a bus might soon arrive.
In a weird way, I miss those early days of alternative bus travel, when getting a ride to New York felt like an adventure. As soon as the companies introduced complimentary water bottles and Wi-Fi, and sophisticated online reservation systems, there was no more pretending we were pioneers.
Now that there’s a convenient, covered location, the experience has gone from sketchy to downright swanky. But I’m still thankful I didn’t have to go anywhere.