I took Bolt Bus this time. Even with Amtrak fares on sale at $49 one way from Washington to New York, it was still half the cost of the train, so from a frugal standpoint, I figured it was worth trying.
Since taking the bus, I have concluded that if I can't afford to take the train, I can't afford to go.
Let me clarify about the bus — it's not that it was a bad bus experience. The seats were leather, it was significantly cleaner than the Metro buses I take to work most days, and there was free wifi, although I did not partake of it. But, in the end, it was still a bus experience.
After a few hours in the narrow, leather-but-wildly-uncomfortable seats, my back hurt, and I was feeling a little trapped. The more I think about it, the more I think that the best thing about taking the train (aside, perhaps, from the wider seats and ample legroom) is the ability you have to get up and walk around whenever you want. I really missed having the option to go for a lengthy train stroll, or sit in the cafe car for awhile instead of my regular seat.
On the way back, I missed the cafe car itself. I was running late in getting to the bus, so I didn't have time to pick up any food, or use the restroom. I rued both during the ride, probably the restroom bit more than the snack car. No restroom in a moving vehicle is great, but Amtrak restrooms, at least, have sinks and are relatively large and clean(er). All the bus had was a dispenser of Purell on the wall. I used it on my hands, but would have preferred a Purell bath after getting out of that thing.
The Bolt bus did have one advantage over the train in the free wifi. But you can buy a beer on the train. So I call that a draw. Train wins. That's how I'll be getting to New York next time.