Megabus meets a travel need

I love when innovative companies re-arrange business models to fill a gap in an economy.Most of us know someone who spent two days on a Greyhound bus to get just 200 miles. We’ve heard that a trip from Dallas to Atlanta can take one through, logically, Chicago. Or that you might overhear a passenger in the row ahead say, “I haven’t been this cold since prison!”

And most of us know how maddening post-9-11 airport security can be. The undressing and redressing. The interrogation of the feeble grandma who has a much greater chance of dying on the flight than blowing it up.

The contraband bottle of lotion. The too large shaving cream can. The reckless fingernail clippers. Your reward for maintaining good hygiene? A full-body hygiene check.

Then, there’s the travails of traveling certain interstate highways by car. Take I-35, for example. Among Austin congestion, free-wheelin’ eighteen wheelers and road construction, it’s a beating at best, a death trap at worst.

So when my wife requested my assistance getting our clan back from a North Texas trip to Mamaw’s, I saw no easy solution.

Enter Megabus, a low-cost point-to-point bus service.

Megabus is popular in the northeast for express trips between metro areas. The company is now attempting to break into the south and is offering cheap fares to do so. I paid $6.50 for my one way ticket from San Antonio to Dallas.

The shiny new double-decker was scheduled to depart at 5:30 a.m. from a surface parking lot in downtown San Antonio. With one stop scheduled for Austin, our estimated arrival time in Dallas was 11:00 a.m.

Mechanical concerns forced a replacement bus and a 45-minute departure delay. I overheard the driver: “It’s still driving good but I don’t know – that light, ya’ know.” No, I don’t know and don’t want to find out.

Notwithstanding the slow start, we reached Dallas only 15 minutes behind schedule.

The clientele was diverse. There were two genders, three generations and four races represented. There were singles and families.

As for safety, I didn’t feel like I had to sleep with one eye opened. I did hustle on my trip to the restroom, which felt more like a port-o-potty than an airplane lavatory. There was no sink but at least a bottle of hand sanitizer.

The company advertises free Wi-Fi Internet. Of course, it also disclaims on its homepage any responsibility for connectivity problems. Sure enough. My device could see the network but could not pull up any sites.

I wasn’t too disappointed. The early departure had cut into my beauty sleep. I used the blackout to stretch out across the back row and catch up on my zzzzz’s. I was one of only about 12 passengers on the 50-passenger bus. Each of us had ample leg, arm and headroom.

Had the Web worked, I would not have run out of juice. Each seat had its own electrical outlet.

Speaking of juice, I did miss the complimentary beverage of a Southwest flight. I did not miss the mandatory “Fasten Seatbelt” sign.

Door-to-door travel time with Megabus surpassed that of flying by a couple of hours. But the much cheaper fare and the much simpler security requirements (i.e., none) helped Megabus live up to its name.

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info

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