Would You Take A Redeye Flat Bed Bus Service Between SF & LA?

All aspects of the travel industry have been hugely innovated over the past several years, both thanks to the on-demand economy, and also thanks to technology. From Airbnb to Uber to Silvercar to JetSmarter, the companies which have been set in their ways for decades are finally being challenged.

There’s a fascinating business which just recently launched, offering an alternative way to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Personally I’ve never had much of an issue traveling between the two markets, as there are dozens and dozens of daily flights, which usually last under an hour in the air.

Perhaps the biggest downsides to these flights are the potential for delays (in San Francisco) and the lack of public ground transportation (in Los Angeles). San Francisco is notorious for flow control, so it’s not unusual to see huge delays for the short flights up and down the coast. While San Francisco has BART, public transportation in Los Angeles is lacking, so getting from LAX to parts of LA can take longer than the flight itself.

There’s a new company which is offering a unique new way to get between Los Angeles and San Francisco by bus. What’s unique isn’t the bus service as such, but rather that the bus operates an overnight schedule, and has 20 fully flat beds onboard.

Sleep-Bus-1

The new company is called Sleepbus, and it launched service earlier in the week. The bus offers amenities like wifi, Casper premium sheets for each twin bed, personal power outlets, and free coffee and tea.

Sleep-Bus-2

The bus travels between the King Caltran San Francisco Station and the Santa Monica Pier, picking up at 11PM daily, and arriving at the destination by 6AM, though you can continue sleeping until the “check-out time” at 7:30AM.

As of now the cost is $48 for the one-way journey, or $96 for the roundtrip journey, which is extremely reasonable. That’s cheaper than just about any flight in the market.

Sleep-Bus

It’s an innovative concept, and a compelling value proposition for a certain type of customer. I’m sure many techies will absolutely love this concept. You ultimately save the cost of a night of hotel and don’t waste daytime hours traveling. Even cost aside, I think a lot of people will like the communal feel of this.

I know I’m weird, but this sounds like my personal hell. While I’m a heavy sleeper, I have a really hard time falling asleep. Conditions need to be exactly right, and I’ve never been one to sleep in cars, given the constant movement. I have no problem sleeping in flat beds on planes, but that’s also a bit smoother than driving.

I realize I’m probably in the minority, but I’m sort of scared of driving, and I tend to think it’s one of my more rational fears. Don’t get me wrong, my palms aren’t sweating when I drive or anything, but I have a hard time relaxing in a car, and I imagine it would be the same here.

Bottom line

Sleepbus is an innovative new concept, and to many will be compelling. The pricing is fantastic, not having to schlep out to SFO and LAX is convenient, and I think even the atmosphere in the bus will be a selling point to a certain type of person.

However, this isn’t for me, as someone who struggles with sleeping on the road, no matter how comfortable of a bed I’m being given.

What do you think of Sleepbus, and would you take them between LA & SF?

(Tip of the hat to Travel Codex)

Comments

  1. Do they serve Dom?

    I agree with you on driving. Being scared of that is a rational fear. It is one of, if not the most, dangerous thing that most of us do.

  2. Also, I love that they let you sleep for an extra 1.5h if you want. BA and others should provide that service in J on their NYC-LON flights.

  3. “While I’m a heavy sleeper, I have a really hard time falling asleep. ”

    This is one thing I am surprised by in many of your reviews. Seems like you often drink a cappuccino or two, make the bed, then have trouble falling asleep. Do you drink decaf, or just have a high caffeine tolerance?

  4. I’d be worried about being hurt in an accident. Doesn’t look like you’re strapped in there.

  5. Remember these are triple bunks, inexplicably they omit things like earplugs and eyeshades, and the location in Los Angeles is poorly accessible by transit (at least with Bolt, Megabus, and Amtrak, the Union Station location is central to the metro area). Also, the demand for overnight service is very spiky. Thursday, Friday, and Sunday get high demand on existing overnight services, while Tuesday and Wednesday get very little traffic. Someone traveling on a weekday can still take Southwest, where WGA fares at $117 are routinely available next day for LAX-OAK, take the 6 AM flight to beat traffic, and still sleep in their own bed.

    The Green Tortoise has run sleeper bus service in this corridor for years, with a decidedly grungier crowd, but they also focus on the weekend market. It’s unclear whether last minute travel on weekend nights will be viable given the limited capacity of Sleeperbus. On the other hand, travel on a Tuesday and you’ll likely share the bus with just a few people, once the initial novelty has worn off.

  6. This is what trains are for. in fact, why doesn’t the US have more luxury trains? that is a better idea for a revival.

  7. Reminds me of the scene in the “Fifith Element” with Bruce Willis where the “seats” on a travel shuttle cruiser are shelf-like sleeping pods!

  8. I would never take a bus as I also can’t sleep with constant movement of cars/buses. I also find that flying to OAK or SJC are a lot less delay prone than SFO itself.

    However, as of 5/21/16 there newly opened Expo Line will be connecting DT Santa Monica (4th and Colorado, only a couple blocks from the Pier) directly to downtown LA. From there you can connect to Union Station (for commuter trains and the metro Gold line) or other metro lines (Red, Purple and Blue) at the Expo terminus at 7th and Metro. While not a variety of public transit, it’s a huge step forward in LA for a city that hasn’t had rail service to the westside in over half a century.

  9. I actually think this would be totally worth it. I am the worst sleeper ever so regardless of the cabin class, two out of three international flights I don’t sleep at all. However, I sleep surprisingly well on overnight trains with beds. I do pack earplugs and eye masks for those trips. I am hoping that the bus will provide a similar experience. Well, I can’t wait to try it out!

  10. If the schedule fit for an open jaw, sure – it’s a bigger space than I had on submarines, and I slept fine there…

    It’s sure cheaper than an airport hotel, and more comfortable than sleeping in the airport.

    I fully understand being scared of driving, but scared of riding? In very rough approximation, in the US, buses are three times safer than trains (about 0.14 vs 0.47 fatalities per billion passenger miles), and MUCH safer than driving (5.75). Commercial air is still safest (0.06), but for the 400 mile bus trip, you’re chance of a fatality is still only 0.000000056. That’s about 2.5 times LESS likely than dying while flying from LAX to JFK (0.00000014).

  11. I’ve done something like this in Argentina though admittedly not as nice looking. Left Bariloche at 5pm, stopped for dinner around 8, got a halfway decent night sleep and arrived in Buenos Aires around 10am.

    Obviously a flight would have saved time but there was a fun adventure and saved the cost of a hotel.

    Wouldn’t do this if I was traveling for work, but if i was backpacking across the USA this is a great alternative to paying for a hotel.

  12. As a SF-native, I think this is great. I’m looking forward to using it in a few weeks if my plans solidify. I enjoy the prospect of essentially having a red-eye flight within CA. I feel that time is wasted anyway by sleeping, so if I can cheaply transit the SF-LA corridor and catch some shut-eye at the same time, then this is the way to do it. And the departure times from the *King Street CalTrain depot* (you have a typo in the sixth paragraph – no “i” in train and it’s not the “King” station) and from the Pier in Santa Monica are perfect for lulling you to sleep.

  13. Love driving so much, love also being a passenger as I never get nervous or try and slam on the brakes as some people in the passenger seat do. I’d take the sleeper bus just for the sake of saying I’ve done it, I cannot see it lasting so you need to do it Lucky!

  14. Ok, I actually owned a Prevost. If they are going up and down I5 the ride will suck as the road is destroyed, as are most of the LA roads and bay area is not much better. All the entertainer coaches are Prevosts, they are air ride and are pretty nice, usually 3 to 12 bunks depending on layout.
    The picture shows a converted class 8 truck, ride may be similar to a bus but probably not as smooth.
    Cool idea and I hope they are successful but not sure how this pencils out after they pay for fuel, driver, attendant, maintenance…I am sure they are running an aux. generator all the time for AC and power.

  15. The economics of this don’t make sense to me. Based on the 380 mile drive, the federal mileage rate is $205.20 plus they need to pay two employees at least $20/hour each after taxes and benefits which totals $360. If they only sell 20 beds at $48 each then the most they could make on ticket sales is $960. Subtracting mileage and employee compensation then they are only making $394 on a fully loaded bus but then they still need to pay for the use of the bus, wifi, coffee, cleaning, etc. They will likely need to fill 15 of the 20 beds just to break even each ride. Maybe they really aren’t going to make money until they upside to the larger buses as was mentioned as a future plan by another blogger.

  16. I’ve often traveled between cities overnight on buses (sleeper or otherwise) in India. It isn’t the most comfortable way to travel, but it’s certainly convenient! I’m moving to CA soon, and this sounds like a great alternative to a flight. I think I’ll be using this service pretty often!

  17. As someone in the industry, who’s spent my share of nights on sleeper busses, this isn’t a problem for me.

    However, I noticed that their promo photo appears to be breaking the cardinal rule of bus bunks:

    SLEEP WITH YOUR FEET FORWARD!!!

    A moron who cuts you off or hits the brakes can make your sleep direction be the difference between a sore ankle and some Advil, and a trip to the ER with a concussion (or worse!) It’s the main reason why Oz basically bans sleeper busses, and some countries are considering the same thing. Not really a problem on a flatbed flight, but trains pose the same problem (looking at you, Empire Builder!)

  18. I’ll pass. Lots of road noise, snoring, talking. I wouldn’t get any sleep and I’d be worried about the driver staying awake. Maybe a high speed train someday would be great.

  19. Agree that one’s feet should face forward in case of sudden stops (or worse, crashes).

    What happens if/when someone snores up a storm?

    And will this be used by frisky couples who want to do the mile high club thing (on the road)?

  20. So, I work in the music industry, and thus, know many people who have slept on tour buses. They do it because it’s necessary and economical in that situation, not comfortable.

    It takes a very long time to get used to being able to sleep on tour busses, and many musicians never truly get used to it. You wake up many times for bumps, turns, horns, etc… (Unless you’re just a really heavy sleeper).

    That said, I couldn’t see this being much worse than long haul economy, and it’s priced to compete with economy. Definitely see the appeal, but I would never dream of choosing to sleep 6 hours on a bus.

  21. Yeah, but this is competing with the crowd that’s paying $41 for overnight Megabuses, Greyhounds, and Bolts. For $10-$20 more they get an experience that’s easily worth several times the price. In college I used to do the redeye bus several times a year, before I got my car and made the drive down south on my own. The Oakland Greyhound station was probably the most dangerous place in the US I’ve spent more than an hour in. It’s a lot better now thanks to gentrification, but still marginal. The LA Greyhound station is not much better. When Megabus started 8 or 9 years ago the quality of riders was easily an order of magnitude better than Greyhound, but as everyone has gotten a smartphone the people who ride Megabus and those who ride Greyhound in the Western US have converged.

    If I don’t feel like flying because of cost or hassle I generally take the Amtrak San Joaquin between LA and the Bay Area. There is that annoying midpoint transfer in Bakersfield but the experience is much better. It used to be the cheapest option with AGR at 1000, then 1500 points, and even with the devaluation can still be done with 2100 points if booked a week in advance.

  22. Reminds me of the “disaster movie” The Big Bus. That bus had a bowling alley, spa and captains table for dining. It was driven by “Shoulders” who had a bad habit of dozing and steering onto the shoulders of the road…

  23. Not exactly a new idea, but rather a copy of an existing model – common mode of long distant overnight travel in Asia

  24. As others have noted, this should be rail service similar to the Acela in the Northeast.

    San Diego -> Los Angeles -> San Francisco -> Sacramento.

    I’d take this route, with the overnight stretch between LA-SF…

  25. Sounds like a HUGE upgrade compared to the overnight bus trips I used to do on Greyhound in order to save the cost of a hotel room. Have any of you who are complaining about the quality of sleep on this bus ever taken an overnight Greyhound trip and attempted to sleep sitting up in those standard seats? I didn’t think so! This would be 100x better than that!

  26. I love this concept, travel up the hated I-5 corridor flat on my back and arrive in the City ready to go. Only thing missing is where to shower and shave, hopefully they will figure that out in the future….

  27. I think if they had other pick up locations in LA I would give it a try, but I live in Santa Clarita and for me to travel to Santa Monica Pier to catch a bus and worry about where to park my car, would be too much of an inconvenience. Because of the late departure time I wouldn’t want to ask anyone to drop me off. It sounds like something I would try if you had a pick up and drop off location in Santa Clarita.

  28. Better still, let’s put the overnight trains that Southern Pacific used to operate back in operation. The LARK ran up the coast and the OWL ran up the San Joaquin Valley. The LARK did such a big business in the 1940s and 1950s that SP used to run dedicated sleeping cars for Standard Oil and Bank of America employees. It also had a reputation for providing an environment where “ladies of the evening” could conduct the world’s oldest profession with all of those traveling businessmen. There used to be two groups of girls, one based in Northern California, the other based in Southern California. They’d work the train halfway up or down the line, get off for a few minutes at a mid-way intermediate stop, such as San Luis Obispo, and work the counterpart train back to their point of origin! Two trains and twice the customers! The Pullman conductor and lounge car attendants supposedly got a certain “cut” or percentage! Those were the days!

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