I am grateful to Mick Capon, our man in North Carolina for writing today's foreign post, where he compares the different ways of getting from his home in North Carolina to Washington DC. Many thanks, Mick, and keep them coming!
Intercity travel options
The nation’s capital. Washington DC, is a favorite destination of mine. I usually travel by car (I know – shame on me), but that can be tiring and if, like in all big cities, you happen to hit the outskirts at the wrong time it can be frustrating.
There are several alternatives to the car from Durham NC to DC. The car aside, the most obvious to Americans, is flying. Durham is lucky enough to have an international airport, Raleigh-Durham International (RDU), situated between the two cities. Based on leaving Durham Station, the transit exchange in downtown Durham and Union Station in DC, here follows comparisons for the 259 mile trip.
United or American Airlines
There are 13 non-stop flights daily between RDU and either Dulles or Ronald Regan airports. Flight time is approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, but of course, flying is not as simple as that. Travel to RDU via Go Triangle adds another 43 minutes, security and checking in another hour and the transfer from Ronald Regan in DC 21 minutes via Metro, from Dulles an extra 65 minutes. That’s a total travel time of 3 hours 19 minutes. Lowest cost for flight and transfers is c. $98, but like all air fare can vary. The average is around $150.
Sponsored by the Station of North Carolina, the once daily 7-car Carolinian, hauled by a GE Genesis P42DC, travels from Charlotte NC to New York NV via Durham and Washington DC. That journey time can be over 13 hrs, but the Durham-DC time is 6 hours 47 minutes and costs are $54-$61. Yes the journey is slow, relaxing if you have the time. The route between Charlotte and Raleigh is now owned by the state, known as the North Carolina Railroad (which in total owns 317 miles of track) with rights leased to Norfolk Southern to provide freight service.
The northbound Carolinian leaving Durham Station on it’s way to DC and New York. Photo Mick Capon.
Greyhound and Megabus
Unlike newcomers Megabus, the iconic Greyhound brand has been operating since 1914. The rapidly expanding Stagecoach owned company, introduced in 2006, is a huge success and by far the cheapest way to travel inter-city in North America. Megabus services are operated by Stagecoach owned Coach USA.
Both operate 4 non-stop journeys between Durham and DC daily. Megabus fares are around the $10-15 range and the fastest journey time is 4 hrs 50, the longest being 5 hrs 15. Vehicles used will be familiar to UK readers, the route being in the sole control of Van Hool Astromega TD925 81-seat double deckers.
DD725, a Van Hool Astromega of 2013. Photo
No double-decks for Greyhound though but vehicles are a far cry from the Scenic Cruises of the 50s, Canadian built Prevosts and MCI (Motor Coach Industries) being used. Nothing lightweight about these beauties, but they are comfortable vehicles. Greyhound fares are more expensive between $28 and $37 depending on the time of travel, whilst journey times are somewhat slower, due to many more stops than the Megabus route, at between 7 hrs 15 and 8 hrs 35.
One of a batch of 90 Prevost X3-45’s recently delivered to Greyhound. Photo RVBusiness.com
Notwithstanding the hassle of driving and the obvious annual running costs, the trip by car is reasonably cheap and easy. I would expect to pay $19 for gas (petrol) and, depending on the time of day, make the trip in about 4 to 5 hrs. Within a couple of miles of my home I hit Interstate 85, switch to cruise control, then the I-95, the same route as Megabus but without the diversion into Richmond VA.
In conclusion, it can be seen that the Megabus option is attractive to many.
Finally a photograph of Durham Station. Opened in 2008. It serves all local, inter-city bus services and Amtrak. The Railroad station can be seen center right.