Friday, September 10, 2010

Plane vs. Automobile vs. Bus....Sorta

On paper, it sounds like a smart idea for a website: a comparison tool that allows one to quickly and easily compare different transportation options in the United States. But once on the web itself....well, its glitchy. Or at least is, though the site is still wet behind the pixels, so I should cut it some slack.

(Photo by DioMakr)
In my first test drive, I inputted a number of city pairs (see below). The engine was supposed to return the costs for airfares, bus fares and the fuel costs for driving my own car. That's what was promised, but bus fares never made an appearance.

And in reading the fine print, I found that the site was only using Greyhound for its comparisons, a bizarre choice for a site that's trying to find the cheapest fares. In many cities, such up-and-comers as BoltBus, Megabus and the various Chinatown bus companies, are driving circles around Greyhound, price-wise. Is there no way to customize the site to do comparisons from the smartest choice of bus company?


Here were the results I got, for planes and flights (prices are round-trip according to the site):

  • San Francisco to Portland, ME: $281 fly, $453 drive
  • Ithica to NYC: $292 fly, $32 drive
  • Washington-NYC: $99 fly, $40 drive
  • Cleveland-Miami: $331 fly, $181drive
  • Tulsa-Orlando: $250 fly, $166
  • Salt Lake City-Raleigh/Durham: $269 fly, $304 drive
  • Los Angeles, Las Vegas: $119 fly, $37 drive

In every case, the flights were priciest except when the distances were vast.

But are these results accurate? Because the site assigns user a random date, rather than allowing them to input their own, special sales can't be caught. So even though I've seen fares between LA and Sin City, to give one example, dip far below $119 round-trip, those figures likely won't appear at GetSetApp.

As well, the site doesn't take into account the extra meals and hotel rooms that might have to be purchased on lengthy car trips (which certainly can up the cost of road trips). And what about different types of cars? A Prius owner may be able to beat the cost of airfare by a heckuva lot, but would someone driving a gas guzzling Jeep Grand Cherokee?

Not that I want to encourage air over land travel. Obviously, driving (especially bus travel) is a greener way to go. I just wish that this new site was a bit, well, savvier in the way it was making these comparisons. Right now, the results feel a bit less like researched data and more like a general guess.

In the FAQ question the site owners say they hope to add train comparisons soon. That would be a good improvement, as would allowing users to input data on their cars (as does), travel dates and other info that would make the comparison more realistic.

Am I asking too much? Probably. But its an idea I'd like to see succeed. So keep on tweaking, GetSetApp. You might just get there. Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Pauline!

    Wow, thank you so much for the review. I apologize I didn't run across your blog sooner. Thank you very much for the feedback, you make all valid points. The site is pretty new, and it's currently just me doing most things, so I do apologize for the lack of functionality. I'll continue to work on the site and add features that will make it easier to compare costs as well as make those prices even more accurate.

    Thanks again for the review!