Let's say you just found out that you have to get from L.A. to San Francisco for a meeting--tomorrow morning. If you can get flight arrangements worked out, good luck getting any real sleep on that plane (and here's to hoping you don't get any sleep if you decide to take the wheel and drive).

The morning meeting looks like it's going to be red-eyed and Red Bulled.

Maybe not, though.

A startup called "Cabin" has recently begun running a super luxury bus between LA and the City by the Bay. With 48,000 people making the trek every day, and no pronounced train system between these cities (or any two cities for that matter, like Europe has), it's a ripe market.

Of those 48,000 trips, planes and cars are the competition, with other services accounting for only 1,000 of those journeys. Cabin is trying to solve what founder Tom Currier calls the "500-mile problem"--travel between two major hubs that's just far enough away to make it a big hassle.

But hold on, you say (with turned-up nose), a bus? That's the innovation?

Well, this is no ordinary bus.

Currier (whom I interviewed for this article) and his partner Gaetano Crupi say Cabin's point of difference is that it focuses on helping you get a good night's sleep. The buses are equipped with sleeping pods, full-on privacy curtains, and soundproof walls. Think you're getting one of those crappy, thin blankets in a bag like on the airlines? Not if the bed sheets are an indication (the same ones are used at the Ritz-Carlton).

The bus includes a lounge, hospitality trained attendants, and even takes a longer route between the two cities so as not to interrupt the eight-hour sleep cycle (trips start at 11 p.m. and go through the night until 7 a.m.).

On the low-tech side, there's Camomile tea to help you sleep, water for hydration, serene-sounding announcements, complimentary ear plugs, spacious bathrooms, obsessive cleanliness, and bags to "help your shoes sleep" all to make this feel more Bali resort than Bus.

On the higher-tech side, company engineers are currently working on a stabilization system that would take the "turbulence" out of travel and further eliminate any weary for the onboard road warriors. Drivers also use app technology to find the least bumpy routes.

That's a far cry from Cabin's bumpy start to providing a smooth ride. The prototype vehicle was a 53-foot bus with a 20-foot trailer attached to haul luggage. Turns out the trailer had no suspension. Yikes.

Suffice it to say it didn't work, and so the entrepreneurs quickly moved to a top of the line Belgian bus shell with a completely customized interior and suspension system.

Early demand for the service (which starts at $115) has been heavy, with the pilot program selling out in three days and 20,000 wait list names collected. Since Cabin launched a month ago, almost every night has been sold out. Currier says this has a lot to do with Cabin's point of difference and value equation--the superbus ride replaces the cost of a flight, hotel, and cost of getting to the airport.

Currier also points out that this method of travel (which he calls "teleportation" because you awake and, boom, you're there) combined with car hailing services like Uber in the destination cities can eliminate the need for a car.

If the startup is successful, many other city hubs could follow for some bright-eyed back and forth, like Chicago and Minneapolis, Atlanta and Orlando, and Boston and Washington DC, according to Currier.

It remains to be seen if the concept will ever pose a serious threat to regional flight schedules. For now, I like the spirit and ingenuity behind it. Even if I'm wondering if my low-limberness self can bend down or climb up into a sleeping pod.

I know, I know, such first-world problems.

Published on: Aug 30, 2017
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