In much of the US, people love cheap transit options like Megabus and Bolt Bus that ferry people between major cities. But in the western US, the distance between cities can be hundreds of miles, and sitting in a cramped seat for seven hours is no fun. That’s why the just-launched startup Sleepbus wants to drive you from San Francisco to Los Angeles while you snooze.
I’d seen a few random posts about Sleepbus, which I almost thought at first was a prank... or an April Fool’s joke. But now there’s a lot more information on the website, and I’m convinced that Sleepbus is a real thing. Last night, it apparently made its maiden voyage, and it has already sold 177 tickets, according to founder Tom Currier, a Stanford dropout who has also launched the co-living startup Campus Coliving.
Here’s the deal: You crash in a private bunk while the bus drives overnight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, or vice versa. For $48 each way ($96 round trip), you’ll get free wifi, your own private bunk with power outlets, all the coffee and tea you want, and Casper sheets. You can bring three bags for free and you can even bring your bike!
Sleepbus picks up passengers at the 4th and King Caltran San Francisco Station starting at 10:30 pm. The bus leaves at 11pm sharp, and takes appoximately 6 hours and 30 minutes to arrive in Santa Monica. The bus unloads passengers at the Santa Monica Pier, you may continue sleeping until check out time at 7:30am.
Why would you sleep on a bus for six-and-a-half hours when you could sleep on a plane for one hour? Hmmmmm. I’m not actually sure. I found flights from SFO to LAX for about $114 round trip, which is only $18 more than Sleepbus. If you want to factor in security lines, travel time to the airport, and maybe ground transportation costs, that might make Sleepbus the clear winner, cost-wise. But even the worst airport and vehicle traffic experiences in the world wouldn’t take 6.5 hours door-to-door.
So maybe Sleepbus is an alternative to driving. It takes about the same amount of time, but it would be nice not to actually drive, right? And indeed, this where Sleepbus shines is in comparison to other wheeled vehicles. Greyhound’s overnight ride starts at $20 each way and takes anywhere between eight to 11 hours, but you don’t get a bed. Megabus gets you there a little faster for $41, but again, you’re stuck in a seat. Amtrak has beds but they’re pricey as heck, going for $208 each way, and still that only gets you as close to SF as Oakland.
Here’s one pro: The bus goes directly from Mission Bay in San Francisco to the Santa Monica Pier, so it does create a kind of wormhole between the techie neighborhoods in the two cities. Which is why small techie-focused commuter airlines like SurfAir have been so successful—they’re flying to tiny airports in Silicon Valley, for example. If the experience is good, it seems like Sleepbus could be an affordable, tech-friendly alternative for driving. You know, until we get that high-speed rail worked out. Or that other thing.
But even though trips started last night, there’s still not a whole lot of information about the service. If you’ve slept on a train’s sleeper car I would guess it would be just about as uneventful and possibly even fun, like you’re on tour with a few of your new best friends. But there aren’t any testimonials that I could find, or even actual photos of the experience itself—yet. (If you do online research, try not to do what I did and confuse it with this Sleepbus, which provides mobile shelters for the homeless.)
So after all this, does Sleepbus sound like something you might want to try? Well, you’re in luck.
Just be sure to say that we sent you.