Wireless Internet, television, a "ride host" handing out breakfast and even a restroom are among the amenities of a new luxury bus commute that launched in Marin on Tuesday.
Bauer's Intelligent Transportation of San Francisco has included Marin in its network of frill-filled buses called Wi-Drive! aimed at luring commuters out of their cars by providing them with all the comforts of home and office.
"Our primary goal is to take people out of their vehicles by providing a first-class, environmentally friendly transit option that will literally give commuters back valuable time - whether working onboard or simply relaxing in comfort," said Gary Bauer, company president.
To get the public introduced to the service that takes passengers to the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the bus is free through March 13 before going to the full one-way fare of $8.20 on March 16.
There are two morning trips departing from Larkspur Landing to the San Francisco Ferry Building, one of which makes a stop near Mill Valley. There are two trips returning to Marin in the evening.
Attorney Karen Bronstein of Corte Madera - the sole passenger on the 8 a.m. departure Tuesday - heard about the free offer and decided to check out the new luxury commute bus.
"Having Wi-Fi and maybe being able to eat breakfast and coffee is a great idea," said Bronstein, who usually takes the ferry to her job in downtown San Francisco. "There is no Wi-Fi on the ferry or Golden Gate buses and you can't bring food on, even a cup of coffee, so you have to wait until you come to the office."
As the 52-person bus rolled down Highway 101, Bronstein was able to use her laptop, keep an eye on CNN and eat a muffin as she sat in a sleek black padded leather seat that looked to be more appropriate for a board room than a bus.
"This is a vehicle that allows you to work as well as be comfortable," said Lon Baylor, transit manager for Bauer's. "Every seat has a tray for a laptop; there are tables, so multiple people can work; and there are outlets as well."
For a fee, a passenger can also go to the Bauer's Web site and pre-order a breakfast, and a drink service will also be available.
Angela Romero, a bus attendant who serves food, finds her job interesting.
"It's kind of different," she said. "I've been a host, but never on a bus. It's unique."
It costs a commuter $4.70 to take a Golden Gate ferry and $3.67 to ride a Golden Gate bus to the San Francisco Ferry Building from Larkspur. A fare of $7.38 is available if a month's worth of rides is purchased on the Wi-Drive! bus.
"Golden Gate ferries and buses are as competitive and as reliable, and more cost-effective," said Mary Currie, Golden Gate Transit spokeswoman.
The service also emphasizes its eco-friendliness: Buses run on biodiesel.
The service's five routes cover Marin, San Francisco and the South Bay to San Jose and run Monday through Friday.
"We will look to expand to Novato and other cities," Baylor said.
Marin morning schedule
- Depart: 6:45, 8 a.m. Larkspur Landing, E&O Trading Co. restaurant
- Depart: 8:10 a.m. Mill Valley/Manzanita park-and-ride lot
- Arrive: 7:20, 8:45 a.m. Ferry Building, San Francisco
Marin evening schedule
- Depart: 4:15, 5:45 p.m. Ferry Building, San Francisco
- Arrive: 5, 6:25 p.m. Larkspur Landing, E&O Trading Co. restaurant
- Arrive: 6:15 p.m. Mill Valley/Manzanita park-and-ride lot
For more information, visit www.bauerswi-drive.org
Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org