by Rebecca Cohen
For two weeks in April 2016, you could board a bus in San Francisco, climb into a personal sleeping pod with fresh linens and free wi-fi, and wake up the next morning in Los Angeles, all for just $50. If you slept on getting tickets for SleepBus, as the startup transportation service was called, you were out of luck reservations filled up immediately, as did the company's voicemail box. So SleepBus went on hiatus for a year, and now it's back, with a new name and a steeper price.
Rebranded as Cabin, the bus line will resume service between Rincon Park and Santa Monica Pier beginning July 14, with one-way tickets starting at $115. That's about the same cost as a plane trip from SFO to LAX, or more in some cases, though the bus pods provide a level of comfort one would associate with an old-timey train experience. SF Weekly, which toured the new Cabin vehicles, says that they have "a neo-kitschy, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey flair," with staff wearing Pan Am-style uniforms.
The Weekly also sheds some light on why SleepBus shut down last year: Cofounder Gaetano Crupi told the paper that rides sold out in 36 hours, and the service's waitlist reached 20,000 people. "People were getting upset that they couldn’t get tickets, and we didn’t want to burn those relationships,” he said.
While a handful of one-star Yelp reviews from last spring allude to the company's struggles to deal with customer demand, Cabin was able to preserve its reputation enough to secure $3.3 million in seed financing, as it recently announced in a press release. Tom Currier, the company's other cofounder, tells Mashable he's trying to promote the service as a "moving hotel," since "buses have such a negative brand perception."
That might be a wise move, considering the fate of past attempts to launch a luxury bus service in San Francisco. Leap Transit, the private bus company that served coconut water onboard and mimicked Muni’s 30X Marina Express line, went bankrupt in 2015, two years after its debut though competitor Chariot is still going strong and adding routes after getting acquired by Ford.
Still, here's hoping Currier can make his vision of a ride that "would basically be like you teleported to L.A."