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What's Wrong With Megabus?

After having some not-so-great luck with Megabus last winter, I decided to give the low-cost bus carrier one more chance during a trip to Pittsburgh last weekend. Unfortunately, that experience has led me to write-off Megabus forever.

(from M.V. Jantzen on Flickr)

It doesn't seem like long ago that Megabus was a concept that people were seriously excited about. After all, it was a concept that was supposed to make something as dreary as bus travel hip, what with the free wi-fi and power outlets and guerrilla marketing efforts. Maybe that could have happened, but Megabus is just too damn cheap. It's "cheap" in every sense of the word - cheap fares, cheap service, cheap reliability. Sure, it's an improvement over Greyhound, but that doesn't mean much in reality.

I've heard Megabus described as a 50/50 proposition. On average, half the time the trip will be perfectly acceptable, the rest of the time it won't. If the low fare is worth that gamble, then go for it. If not then it's not worth your time.

I don't want this post to come off as an angry consumer rant in seek of some sort of satisfaction. I accept the poor quality of Megabus. What makes me upset is that I really want there to be a great inter-city bus service that can connect cities and get people where they need to go. I want there to be competition for transportation between cities that are too close to fly and to expensive to travel by train. But the prerequisite is that the service has to be acceptable. It has to be clean, safe and on-time. Megabus fails on at least two, if not all three of these metrics.

I really wish I didn't have to write this post, because I really wanted to like Megabus, and I really tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, sometimes things just don't work out the way you want them to.


The Urbanophile said…
Rob, I've never had a cleanliness issue. The problems I've run into are a) non-working wifi and b) delays.

On point B I think it's worth considering that my worst delay was like 50 minutes. I contrast my Megabus trip this weekend with even my comparatively smooth ORD-LGA round trip and the bus is definitely better, esp considering the cost differential.
Stephen said…
Did you take it to Pittsburg both times? Because I've ridden it to Philadelphia many, many times, and I've always had good experiences – the only times I've had things like you describe happen was on real Chinatown buses.

I'd imagine that because of the frequency and closness of the destinations, the Northeast Corridor routes would be a lot safer bets than the ones that venture into Real America.
Rob Pitingolo said…
2 of 3 trips to Pittsburgh I took on Megabus were very negative experiences. I did ride Megabus from Cleveland to Chicago a few years back, and was unimpressed by the delays, random stops (in addition to the rest stop) and non-working Wi-Fi (which I've found to be the rule more than the exception). I also booked a trip from New York to Baltimore once, but had to burn that fare when I discovered that Megabus's "Baltimore" stop is actually deep in Baltimore suburbia and not downtown, where I needed to be.
Pierre Lourens said…
I've ridden to and from Durham to DC with pleasant experiences. I didn't expect the wi-fi to work going in, and it worked about 50% of the time. Otherwise, it was clean, early, and enjoyable.

Anonymous said…
The relevant comparison is the ontime record of the competition, ie Amtrak, Bolt, Septa/NJT and driving your own vehicle. None of them is perfect, and I have been on time with all of them most of the time and late with all of them occasionally. Bus is subject to road traffic delays, although wily drivers sometimes can avoid traffic. Trains are subject to power failures and police investigations that halt all traffic. All are subject to mechanical failures of the vehicles. Hard to tell which is really the best deal or the best performance without actual on time data.
dan reed! said…
I know a lot of people don't know that Megabus' Baltimore stop is in White Marsh, and I know it's not a convenient stop if you're going downtown (though given the spatial layout of the Baltimore area, there might be quite a few trips that aren't going downtown), but if you're going to travel somewhere, at least check where the bus stop is first. That's on you, not Megabus.
Anonymous said…
I've never had a good experience on Greyhound. I find Amtrak comfortable, but overpriced, and if not travelling in the NE corridor rarely convenient. The vagaries of WiFi aside, I've only had one negative experience on MegaBus, and I take it and BoltBus probably about once a month or more. (For the record my bad experience was a 2 hour delay in the middle of winter at an outdoor stop - I was definitely fuming about it at the time!). I mostly travel to/from New York, so perhaps service is more reliable here, but overall it has given me the reliable intercity travel that you say you want without the cost of Amtrak or the hassle/disrespect of Greyhound.
Anonymous said…
3 hours late - buffalo to new York. Signed up for text alerts - none were received. I am kissing them goodbye as well.

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