Megabus: Taking buses to the next level Call it prescient: In the past year, Megabus has expanded its operations to 25 cities in the United States and Canada as fuel costs have risen, giving travelers a cheap alternative to driving and flying when they need it most. The bus line keeps its fares extremely low—starting from $1 for the first few people who book seats on each bus—by selling tickets online and doing pickups and drop-offs in the centers of cities rather than at terminals. At the same time, Megabus hasn't skimped on quality—its double-decker fleet is equipped with free Wi-Fi, video screens, headsets, and seat belts. Plus, many buses run on biodiesel fuel. "We're conscious of what the traveling public wants," says Dale Moser, president and chief operating officer. "We're saving people money but still giving them a coach outfitted with the latest technology." Now even the 94-year-old grande dame of bus companies, Greyhound, is rethinking its business model. Greyhound joined with competitors this year to launch two bus lines, BoltBus and NeOn, with similar low fares and high-tech amenities. Megabus didn't start a trend, it reinvented bus travel for a new generation. —Jean Tang
September 26, 2008
Jet Set, Meet the Bus Bunch
By TRACIE ROZHON
KENNY BASCOM stood near the steering wheel of his BoltBus, just about to leave from West 33rd Street in Manhattan, bound for Washington. He called his passengers to attention.
"Can I put a rule in?" he asked. "This bus doesn't move unless you smile. And here's another thing: You got cellphones? Use 'em."
There was a buzz of disbelief.
Use the cellphones? Plug in the laptops! Chat with your fellow passengers and laugh - guilt-free - with a friendly driver at the helm and very comfortable seats all around you.
All for $25 or less, sometimes much less, depending on when you reserve. B.Y.O.F. (bring your own food).
Starting about a dozen years ago with the so-called Chinatown buses, which were the first to offer a minimum of frills (and schedules), Route I-95 between Boston and Washington has become jammed with cheap express buses with jazzy names and the design and Web sites to match: BoltBus (online, tap a key and watch lightning strike!), Megabus (a huge, cherubic driver is emblazoned on the side of the bus), DC2NY, Washington Deluxe and others.
Capitalizing on the success of those first Chinatown buses, the big boys got into the business - BoltBus is owned by Greyhound, and Megabus by a large Scottish transportation company, Stagecoach Group, through its subsidiary Coach USA. As the companies refine their service, the cheap express bus experience just keeps changing, competing to offer amenities: BoltBus now offers plugs for electrical appliances; Washington Deluxe has just added Dupont Circle to its list of Washington stops.
Judging by a recent round trip from New York to Washington - down on BoltBus, back on Megabus - the changes are being seen and, for the most part, appreciated by the passengers, a surprisingly diverse group.