17 March 2010

The Boston-New York City Commute, part II

Now that Megabus has returned to South Station, it's a viable option for my NYC-Boston commute. I tried it again last night for the first time in some years. Thoughts:

WIN:

  • MB has a 1:30 a.m. departure. The only other company that runs this late is Greyhound. Unlike Greyhound, this bus arrives just as the T starts running, makes no stops (many late-night Greyhound services stop in Worcester), and doesn't involve waiting in the basement of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. (Embarking outdoors at 31st and 8th might be unpleasant in the rain, though.)
  • The double-decker coaches are great. As comfortable as Bolt Bus but with cruelty-free seats, lots of legroom, 110v outlets, and very fast WiFi.
FAIL:

  • The WiFi network blocks ssh (port 22). WHY? I could still ssh from my phone, but I couldn't do real work that way. Who blocks 22 in this day and age?
EPIC FAIL:

The megabus website is a disaster on mobile phones. I tried to buy a ticket from a Droid. I was redirected to the "mobile" website, which contained nothing but a warning that the mobile website wasn't ready yet and a link to the regular website. That's fine; the Android browser can handle anything. I clicked the regular-website link and navigated to the "select a bus" screen, but every time I clicked a departure time, I was immediately redirected back to the useless "mobile" website. I suspect the "don't send me to the mobile site" was a request parameter rather than a cookie, someone forgot to add it to whatever request was silently triggered when I clicked a departure time.

I tried calling the booking number. Fortunately, they had someone on duty, fortunately, she even could pass me to a customer service agent. Unfortunately, the customer service agent couldn't help me. (Understandably -- this was 11pm.) [I could have booked the ticket over the phone, but paying the service fee when I had a perfectly working browser seemed silly.]

Eventually, I found steel, an alternative browser interface for Android. Steel lets you spoof your User-Agent header and pretend to be a desktop computer. Went back to the site -- huzzah! No more mobile-site redirects.

Summary:

Great departure-time selection, nice amenities, inexplicably restricted network, dreadful mobile-phone user experience. And very fast. We left at 1:30 and arrived at 5:16. The T came at 5:30, so I was back before sunrise.

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