Road Trip: HL Central may be synonymous with bar reviews and a website, but lately they have been trying to get into the bus business

BY MEREDITH MCKEE

Painting the Big Apple red without losing the green

Forty bucks and a free weekend can now buy HLS students round-trip transportation to New York City, HL Central announced last week.

The organization has reached an agreement with a local bus company to provide pick-up and drop-off service to the law school. For $20, Entertainment Tours will pick up students on campus from Thursday through Sunday and drop them off outside Penn Station in New York. With the administration’s agreement, busses will stop on Jarvis Street outside Pound Hall at 6:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Busses will depart Penn Station at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for the return trip to HLS. Service begins on January 17.

“This was something I’ve had on the back burner since I was a 1L,” Duane said. “It’s no big secret that these are things that are borne out of mine and my friends’ necessity. After September 11th, the necessity became greater. People want to visit — and a lot of 3Ls are having all the more free time now that they want to get out and visit. Plus, the airport rigmarole has gotten so much worse.”

To guarantee a seat, students must make a reservation over the phone (1-800-310-9900) at least 24 hours before departure. Students can also buy a ticket on the bus without a reservation on a space-available basis.

Although the buses will pick up students on campus, “there’s a slight inconvenience for law students,” Duane said. Any bus that is not full after stopping at the law school will travel to South Station to pick up additional passengers.

“If we don’t fill up a bus — we’ll know before hand,” Duane said, referring to the phone-reservation system. “So if we have 45 people, we’ll go straight to New York City. But if we have 10 or 15 people on a bus, they’ll go to South Station.

“Still, that’s a lot more convenient than dragging your suitcases down to South Station on the T,” he said.

Duane gave the service a test-drive last weekend.

“As busses go, it seemed nice,” he said. “They showed a movie. I was blown away that the trip was so quick.”

From door to door, Duane estimates that the trip from Penn Station in New York to South Station in Boston took less than four hours.

“I feel like it takes longer to take an airplane from Boston to New York,” Duane said. “The flight is about an hour, but you still have all the incidentals. You have the T, which is an hour, or you can take a cab for $30. Then you’re in the airport for two hours at the minimum, and you have to add in taking a cab from La Guardia to Manhattan.

“So you’re not really saving any time [by flying] — it’s about four hours either way,” Duane said.

In New York, the bus drops off students outside the bus terminal on the east corner of 31st St. and 8th Ave. From there, students can access seven major subway lines, the Port Authority and Grand Central Station.

If the project proves successful, service may be expanded to Harvard’s other schools.

“After the law students use it a fair amount and get used to it, and after we iron out the snags, if there are any, we’re going to open it up to the University,” Duane said. “There’s no reason not to.”

If more students from Harvard use the service, he said, the busses won’t have to stop off at South Station to pick up more passengers.

Currently, however, the service is open to all HLS students and their friends, relatives and significant others.

Duane said he got the idea from bus-rental ventures at the Business School, where venture funds are used to rent busses for travel before and after vacation periods. There, Duane said, funds used to charter a bus are recouped through ticket sales to students. Last fall, tickets to New York were selling for $50, he said.

But this system is structured differently.

“HL Central doesn’t put up any money for this,” Duane explained. “We don’t make any money, we don’t lose any money.”

Instead, Entertainment Tours is using HLS as a drop-off and pick-up point in an effort to win more business.

“This carrier was setting up this $20 service to New York out of South Station” before HL Central got involved, Duane said. “They started it up a few months ago, but no one was using it.”

As part of the agreement, Entertainment Tours has guaranteed service through the end of this academic year.

“If no one reserves a seat from here, then [the bus] just doesn’t have to come here,” Duane said. “The flip side is that they’re based out of Braintree, so it’s not that far out of the way for the bus to pass by here on the way to South Station.”

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