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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 08:29 PM
Original message
Get on the Bus

from Bloomberg Business Week:

The Megabus Effect
After decades of decline, the bus is the U.S.'s fastest-growing way to travel, led by curbside service from Megabus, BoltBus, and others

By Ben Austen

On a Chicago morning in late December, 60 people are lined up outside along a downtown street, waiting for buses headed to Des Moines, Indianapolis, and Kansas City. It's 20F, the wind talons, and the travelers sway and stamp. A student of clinical psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, standing near four dreadlocked white guys, says he paid $26 for a 200-mile trip to Iowa City, which prompts someone else to brag that his seat on the same double-decker bus cost $5.

They're all there to catch rides offered by Megabus, the largest of the private companies to corporatize New York's "Chinatown bus" model of street-side pickup, express travel between sizable cities, and cut-rate fares. Half a mile from the Greyhound depot and barely on the periphery of Union Station's Beaux Arts grandeur, the Megabus stop's only identification is a modest street sign displaying the company name above its mascot, a cherubic, Benny Hill-like character in a yellow driver's cap.

After the Des Moines bus departs, a dispatcher shouts that Indianapolis-bound travelers can sit on the "warming bus." He points to a white coach idling 50 feet up the street. The crowd migrates that way, leaving on the sidewalk Dale Moser, chief executive officer of Megabus's parent company, Coach USA. Bundled only in a thin leather jacket and earmuffs, Moser, 55, says he has been watching the operations for more than an hour. He immediately begins detailing the company's merits: how 90 percent of customers book online, many simply showing tickets texted to their phones to board; how the buses all offer free Wi-Fi and power outlets at every seat; how every trip includes at least one $1 fare, with prices going up as the departure date nears and as the bus fills; how there are no terminals or storefronts, just a bare-bones back-office staff; how the bus fleet is in constant use. "You cut all that overhead out of your business, you find you can pass that savings on to customers, thus driving volume," Moser says. About once a month he rides the buses himself, as a sort of secret shopper, chatting people up and asking about their travel experiences. "If they look at me like I'm a real creeper, I tell them who I am," he says.

When the ink in my pen freezes, I ask if he would mind continuing our conversation inside. The head of the biggest "curbside bus" carriera mode of transportation that is by far the fastest-growing in the nationsurveys his teeming Chicago hub. He suggests the Dunkin' Donuts across the street. ................(more)

The complete piece is at:

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markpkessinger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 09:18 PM
Response to Original message
1. Megabus and Boltbus have been a Godsend to NYC
For the past 30 years, I have lived in NYC. And for the entire thirty years, I have taken trips to my hometown in central Pennsylvania (near State College). Prior to the advent of these companies (as well as the various Chinatown buses), travel options were few and far between. There was a local Pennsylvania company that bought up a bunch of the old Continental Trailways routes, and tried to create a sort of network out of them. The trip from central Pennsylvania to NYC -- a drive that would take four hours tops -- took over six hours, as the bus wound its way mostly on back roads in order to stop at every town and hamlet with a population larger than a few thousand. Traveling from NYC, we would typically stop in Somerville, Clinton, then Phillipsburg (all in NJ), followed in Pennsylvania by stops in Easton, Walnutport, Lehighton, Jim Thorpe, Hazelton, Berwick, Bloomsburg, Danville, Sunbury, Lewisburg, White Deer and then finally Williamsport. And if the misery of the trip weren't enough, it was also expensive. I don't know what the current fare is, but as recently as 10 years ago it was around $54 each way. And the departure times never made any sense for people looking just to get away for the weekend.

Fortunately, over the past several years, various of the Chinatown bus lines, along with Megabus and Boltbus, have begun offering direct, NYC to State College service at least two or three times daily. I used Megabus just this past weekend. It was $32 each way -- I'd be hard pressed to drive it for that price. And it takes 4 hours and 20 minutes (which includes a 20 minute rest stop). There is no standing on line at a bus terminal to get a paper ticket -- you make your reservation online, and all the driver needs to see is your confirmation number (a lot of people just pull up the email confirmation of their reservation on their cell phones and show the driver that). Megabus does an amazing business. When I was waiting in line for the bus this past Friday, I watched bus after bus come in and load to capacity destined for Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton, Hartford, Providence, Richmond, Pittsburgh and State College. The buses are all fairly new and comfortable (within the limits of how comfortable a bus can ever really be), with free Wi-Fi connections for folks' electronic appendages.

There are sometimes some inconveniences involved. For example, on my most recent trip, the bus was an hour and 40 minutes late pulling into New York. The driver said the company had trouble "locating a bus" for him. And of course, since their office staff is so limited, it's not like there's anyplace to call to receive up-to-the-minute information. I tried calling their customer service line to inquire about an ETA for the bus I was waiting for. It was already an hour and 15 minutes late. The customer service rep. said that she hadn't received any reports, so it must have been the case that there was an accident or something somewhere that was tying up the bus. After hearing the driver's explanation (i.e., no available bus to drive), I was inclined to believe him over what customer service had told me. Still, on most occasions when I've used Megabus, they have been on time or reasonably close to it, so I'll put up with the occasional scheduling glitch so long as the prices are so low.
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spanone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 09:22 PM
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2. Gus
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jwirr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-25-11 09:37 PM
Response to Original message
3. Many futurists have talked about needing a mind change and this
is a very good beginning. Even if we develop alternatives it is still a good thing to use conservation measures. There are times when I use my grandson's car - when I am doing the large once a month grocery shopping and when the bus does not go where I want to go but I ride the bus because it is the right thing to do in most circumstances.
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