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A Luxury Bus Company (Sorry—‘Highway Train’) Wants You to Sleep Your Way to L.A.

Cabin is what happens when you combine San Francisco tech, 20-somethings with expendable cash, and an eight-hour, drug-induced nap.  

SLIDESHOW

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A Cabin sleep pod.

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“Is this how you’re going to murder people?,” I ask Tom Currier, CEO of Cabin, as he closes the curtain of the sleeping pod I’m in. I’m touring a Cabin bus, basically a hotel on wheels that motors customers from San Francisco to Los Angeles on overnight trips for about $115 each way, and Currier has asked me to lie down in a pod to experience the noise-canceling ability of the little sleeping hole. He slides the curtain back open. “I’m sorry that was so creepy,” he says, laughing, and proceeds to assure me he had no plans to kill me. 

As I lie in the pod, I can’t help but feel like I am on my way to Mars instead of Los Angeles. The quietness is impressively eery. The pods are intended to mimic the touring-musician lifestyle that Cabin cofounders Currier and Gaetano Crupi say inspired them to create the company. The two want to bring the rockstar experience to the masses, or at least let them sleep like rockstars while traveling overnight between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Known as SleepBus when it debuted last year for a soft launch, Cabin offers 24 people-size pods carefully crammed onto a bus so passengers can get a good night’s rest on what is usually a six-to-eight-hour road trip. After the original debut, which cost $60 one way and ran one bus to and from Los Angeles, the company spent nine months tweaking the design of the interior and developing a long-term plan to rule what Currier calls the “highway train” space. It relaunched as Cabin on Thursday, after securing $3.3 million in seed money from Founders Fund and StartX, among other investors.

The founders are both Stanford graduates who bring contrary but complementary experiences to the company. Cabin is Tom Currier’s third startup. He also created Qbotix, a solar robotics startup, and Campus Coliving, a social network for millennials moving to the city. Crupi, on the other hand, started his career at Goldman Sachs and serves as the COO of Cabin. The company’s fleet has three newly acquired 600-square-foot coaches that were specially selected for their internal space, suspension, and gas mileage. The sleeping pod is large enough for me to stretch my legs out in, but not enough to sleep completely spread eagle. It’s approximately six feet long and comes with a mattress, comforter, pillow, and air conditioning as well as a reading lamp for late-night bookworms. On the first floor of the double-decker bus I walk past three bunks, including a two that are disability accessible, next to a lounge area. The lounge, which can hold 13 people, consists of a dining table and couch, and serves free coffee and tea. The bottom floor also holds the bus’s only bathroom. (Tough luck for the three basement-level passengers who have to sleep next to both the insomniacs and the urinators.) 

A few steps up a slender staircase lead me to the second floor, which is just bunks on bunks on bunks. The space between them is limited, and as I hoist myself onto the top bunk at Currier’s instruction, I can’t help but feel bad for the people stuck on the bottom who might get a foot in the face from their upstairs bunkmate. “The best way is to just roll into the bunk,” Currier encourages me. Upon arrival, passengers receive complimentary earplugs, water bottles and dose of “Dreamwater,” a sleep aid that contains melatonin, tryptophan, and other snooze-inducing elements. The passengers check in at 11 p.m. and sleep through the journey, arriving in Los Angeles at 7:00 a.m. the next day (with the option to keep sleeping until 9:00 a.m.). 

Oddly enough, Cabin was born from Currier and Crupi’s desire to build a whole new city outside of San Francisco. “We were going to buy ten square miles of land and build kind of a permanent version of Burning Man,” Currier says. But as the two friends realized, the residents of their new utopia would have to commute to the city for work. Currier believes cities as we know them weren’t built for public transportation; they were built for cars. So instead of building their own utopia outside of the city, they opted to create a luxurious commuting-slash-napping experience. “We see highway trains as the way to connect American cities,” Currier says. “We’re going to make larger and larger vehicles.” 

The new one-way price of Cabin is almost double the one-way price of SleepBus—and the same price as many round-trip flights between SFO and LAX, not to mention five to seven hours longer. (The choice to fit only 24 people in a bus and increase the size of the lounge to three times its original occupancy raised the price.) Nevertheless, Currier swears the lie-flat luxury and possible savings—sure, sometimes flights to visit our southern neighbors are more like $250 round trip—make Cabin worth the money and time. And he hopes to expand both the size and the frequency of the journeys to reduce costs. Cabin has plans to add routes from San Francisco to San Diego, as well as out-of-state journeys to Arizona and Nevada—all a good-night’s-sleep distance, of course.

 

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