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Canadians can shop till they drop with $1 bus fares to U.S.

Downtown Portland April 9, 2009.

Globe files/Globe files

A discount bus service is set to launch a new route connecting Vancouver, Seattle and Portland – just one day before considerable hikes in the amount of tax-exempt goods Canadian residents can haul home across the border take effect.

BoltBus's Pacific Northwest route, launching May 31, offers fares as low as $1 for early bookers. While the company said average fares for a one-way trip to Portland from Vancouver will range from $25 to $35, those who purchase tickets in advance can find heavily-discounted fares. Several randomly selected dates in June showed fares of $2 as of Thursday afternoon. At least one $1 ticket is available on each schedule.

The discounted prices are possible due to a lack of infrastructure – the Greyhound Line-owned service does curb-side pick-ups and drop-offs – and online bookings for which passengers print their own tickets, said Company spokesman Timothy Stokes.

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It will be BoltBus's first time operating in Canada.

Surrey resident Dilara Litonjua and her husband booked a trip to Seattle for $1 each, each way, and a $1 booking fee for a total of $5. The pair booked two weeks in advance.

"I've never taken a shuttle to Seattle before; we always just drive," Ms. Litonjua said. "But if the fares are good, this will make it a lot easier."

Mr. Stokes said it is difficult to break down the typical pricing structure on each coach as fares increase based on availability and demand.

"But we do emphasize the sooner a passenger does purchase a ticket, the lower their fare will be, and the better chance they'll have, as well, of purchasing that $1 fare," he said.

The launch of the new route coincides with a rise in the limits of how much Canadians can buy south of the border without having to pay duties or taxes.

As of June 1, Canadians who have been in the United States for more than 24 hours will be able to bring back $200 worth of goods, up from $50. Those who have been away for more than 48 hours can bring back $800, up from $400.

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The exemption limit for residents gone for more than seven days rises $50 to $800. Alcohol and tobacco allowances remain unchanged.

BoltBus has operated in the northeastern United States since 2008. In New York, the curbside service of such intercity bus lines has drawn the ire of residents and politicians, who say the cost-cutting measure leads to double-parked buses and crowds of passengers, creating serious safety concerns.

Last month, New York City lawmakers proposed legislation that would require bus companies to seek approval from the state Department of Transportation on when and where to pick up and drop off passengers.

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News reporter

Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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