Sounds like just another alternative to Greyhound or Amtrak, doesn’t it? Well, Megabus’ big difference: its low prices. As in — really, really low.
I wasn’t so sure about this. Was I going to be riding on broken springs, with the wind whistling out a cracked window? Would Megabus deliver on its promise for comfortable transportation, at an insane price?
The answer: it did.
The test ‘flight’ came during a trip to visit The Mama. I needed a ride from Chicago, IL to Grand Rapids, MI, and my flight came in too late to catch the Amtrak I usually took to connect.
I booked a round-trip ticket on Megabus, instead: $8.50, including a 50-cent booking fee. (No, I’m not making this up.)
The drawback: my bus didn’t leave until midnight, from near Union Station. I had plenty of time to get there via the El (elevated train) from O’Hare…that wasn’t the problem. It did mean waiting for four hours at the food court, paperback and Chicago-style hot dog in hand. (Who am I, to buck tradition on the latter?)
Finally, just before 11 p.m., I walked down to the Megabus pickup site. It was a chilly night, and a huge crowd of people were milling around, a mix of hipsters, frugalites, older people, with a sprinkling of oddballs. Several double-deckers pulled in, with signs ranging from Kansas City, Minneapolis, Columbia, MO, and Cincinnati. They loaded quickly, and were off. Finally, with chattering lips, I spotted the Grand Rapids bus, which also was headed to Lansing and Detroit.
The bus was warm and seats were comfortable. (Megabus offers free WiFi, which I would have taken advantage of — but I couldn’t stay awake. It is a little bumpy for that, anyways.) Four snooze-filled hours later, I got off in Grand Rapids, in a snowstorm. Welcome to Michigan!
Megabus: The Good
The good parts of Megabus are just what you’d wish for: comfortable seats, large windows, WiFi, a direct route with no little annoying stops. Each single- or doubledecker has its own onboard bathroom, as well. Better than Greyhound, not quite so roomy as Amtrak. And incredible prices: I talked to a couple who was headed to Kansas City. Their one-way tickets: $43. Together.
Megabus: The Bad
The bad parts are the times: many of these routes leave late at night, and arrive early in the morning. It’s not always that easy to figure out where the bus leaves, either — although the Chicago stop was well-marked with a post and the Megabus logo, the Grand Rapids stop showed nothing. Not a sign, not a marker…just a quick stop along a parking lot, with the snow coming down. (The stops are located a short walk from other transportation areas — the parking lot in Grand Rapids wasn’t far from the Amtrak station. And Grand Rapids seems to be a new stop, as well.)
No bus shelters, either, though Megabus employees are close at hand to help unload the buses, switch drivers and so on.
Would I take Megabus again? You bet. The awkward waiting wasn’t fun, but once you’ve found the stop, it really isn’t that difficult. The late-night and early morning times also adapt to about any travel schedule…a bonus, as well as a sacrifice.
And you just can’t argue with the price.
Megabus has been traveling only as far west as Kansas City, though they go to many of the major cities in the East. As of January 2013, they’ve expanded into California and Nevada. Now, if they’d only head for the other Western states, as well…find out more on their website.