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Megabus ...Translates to Mega Value

August 14, 2011
By PHYLLIS R. SIGAL Design Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

"I'm taking the Megabus," I told a number of people before traveling to Philadelphia and then on to the Jersey shore by car.

"The what?" was the response from most people.

The Megabus is relatively new to these parts, with a Pittsburgh hub - the company's sixth - having just opened in May.

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According to Dale Moser, president and chief operating officer of megabus.com., the concept began in 2006, in the midwest. The first hub was in Chicago, and Megabus traveled to seven cities in that vicinity.

In 2008, it expanded to the northeast with travel to 11 cities out of Boston. Now travel to 13 cities is available from Pittsburgh. Other hubs include Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; and Toronto, Canada.

"It's safe, convenient and an affordable mode of transportation," Moser said.

A survey that he cited notes that 50 percent of Megabus travelers would've driven instead of taking the bus; 23 percent would have flown; a smaller percentage would've taken the train or another bus company; while about 10 percent to 15 percent would not have taken the trip at all.

Megabus tickets only are available online. Pricing is variable, based on how far in advance you purchase your tickets, how full the bus is and if travel is done on peak or slow days.

"If you're good at planning in advance, you can really save," Moser said.

When I made my reservations about six weeks prior to my trip, my tickets cost me $12 each way, with a 50-cent reservation fee. Had I made my reservations one day earlier, it would have been $5 for one of the legs of my journey and $12 for the other. Had I waited until the week before, the price had risen to around $38 each way.

Tickets start out at just $1!

If I had flown to Philly, it would have cost me at least $160. Driving - with gas and tolls - would've cost me a little more than $100.

Moser said that the company took consumers' wishes into consideration in the planning. "The old way to purchase tickets was to walk up to the bus station window, buy a ticket for the 10 a.m. bus, and if you were 56th in line, you didn't have a seat. You'd be relegated to the next trip," he said.

On Megabus, "You buy your ticket, you are guaranteed a seat," Moser said.

Also, riders wanted as few stops as possible. Megabus is considered an express service, with very few stops along the way.

"Americans are very time conscious. Time is money. That is something we heard loud and clear."

Moser said their research also found that people don't want to go inside bus stations. Megabus stops are conveniently located, usually in a central part of a city.

In Pittsburgh, the stop is located near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, under cover from the elements. In Philadelphia, a downtown corner is the site, just across the street from the 30th Street train station.

A survey by DePaul University found that Megabus has reinvented bus travel, Moser explained.

There had been a 30-year decline in bus ridership until 2007, when it increased for the first time. "They attributed that to Megabus. They call it the 'Megabus effect,'" Moser said.

"They believe we've reinvented bus travel with pricing, ease of ticketing, center city stops and affordability," Moser said.

The brand new buses are very comfortable with reclining seats, WI-FI, power outlets and restrooms. Of the 3,500 buses in the Megabus fleet, 135 are double-decker vehicles.

Megabuses also are a very green form of transportation, Moser said.

"The federal government says we are the greenest form of transportation per passenger mile that exists today," he said.

Moser believes that bus travel is a good alternative to the high cost of flying. As opposed to a high-speed rail system, Megabus operates on an infrastructure that is already in place - the highway system. "And it hasn't cost taxpayers a penny."

With several tour bus fatalities across the country recently, safety is always a consideration.

Megabus is a publicly traded company; the buses are new, and equipped with seatbelts; and drivers are well-trained, Moser said.

"Megabus is safe and reliable," he said.

"Ninety-two percent of our riders say they'll use us again. Ninety-seven percent say they'll tell a friend about Megabus," Moser said.

"We are excited we've reinvented bus travel."

 
 

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