Posts Tagged ‘Megabus’

German Bus Company to Enter U.S. Market

November 16, 2017

A German long-distance bus company says it plans to begin service in the United States in competition with Greyhound, Megabus and Amtrak.

FlixBus said it will be based in Los Angeles.

“There is a significant shift in the American transport market at the moment. Public transportation and sustainable travel is becoming more important,” FlixBus founder and manager Andre Schwaemmlein said in a statement.

FlixBus has been a major player in European long-distance bus service since 2013 and has survived a fierce price war among new market entrants to boost its market share in Germany.

A Reuters news service story said FlixBus has more than 90 percent market share and its bright green motor coaches are a common sight on German roads.

FlixBus does not own any of its buses but instead works with local and regional partners.

That is similar to how Megabus operates in the United States. Owned by Britain’s Stagecoach Group, Megabus began U.S. service in 2006.

One of its chief competitors, Greyhound, is owned by a British company, FirstGroup PLC. Greyhound carries 18 million passengers a year with a fleet of 1,700 vehicles.

By contrast, Amtrak carried 31.3 million in fiscal year 2016. Figures are not yet available systemwide for FY 2017.

FlixBus did not say when it would begin service or what routes it would serve.

DePaul University Study Finds that Akron, Columbus, Dayton are Among Transportation ‘Pockets of Pain’

August 25, 2017

Columbus has been identified in a study as one of the nation’s most prominent “pockets of pain” when it comes to intercity public ground transportation.

The capital of Ohio ranks toward the top of the list because of its lack of Amtrak service and express bus service.

It was joined by another state capital, Phoenix, which also lacks Amtrak service. Also on the list are Akron and Dayton.

Amtrak’s New York-Kansas City National Limited halted in Columbus and Dayton for the last time on Oct. 1, 1979. Megabus pulled out of Columbus this past January.

The study was released by Chicago-based DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

It focused on large cities that lack rail and express bus connections to other major cities. Cities outside Ohio that also made the list included Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fort Myers, Florida.

“Columbus has been cursed in terms of ground transportation, largely because of geography,” said Joseph Schwieterman, co-author of the study and director of the Chaddick Institute. “It’s a little far from cities such as Chicago and Washington to make bus service a good success.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • Cleveland-to-Columbus is the fourth-busiest route (ones with the most point-to-point travel) in the country that lacks both intercity express bus service and rail service.
  • Chicago-to-Columbus is the seventh-busiest such route.

“The study validates what we already knew: The central Ohio region does have gaps in ground transportation options for passengers connecting to other regions,” said William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. “That is why we are working hard with our community partners across four states, including Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

“These efforts include a Columbus-to-Chicago passenger rail connection and the Midwest Connect Hyperloop Corridor (Pittsburgh to Chicago via Columbus), as well as (other) regional efforts.”

Last year, Columbus won the national Smart City Challenge and was awarded $40 million by the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million by Vulcan Inc. Another $90 million has been pledged by a Columbus public-private partnership, bringing the total to $140 million.

That funding was not intended to go toward development of conventional rail or bus intercity service. However, Schwieterman said the Smart City projects can only help.

“Innovation in urban areas could morph into providing true intercity service,” Schwieterman said. “It’s only a matter of time before services like Uber and Lyft start offering van service between cities, for example.”

He also believes the federal government should track ridership of private express bus services the way it does with airline passengers in order to better understand the demand on various routes.

Schwieterman would like to see local governments encourage bus service by helping companies establish convenient curbside stops and providing incentives to renovate bus stations.

“Some people will consider an express bus, but are resistant to taking Greyhound,” Schwieterman said. “It’s a culture change.”

To see the study, go to http://bit.ly/2xd2LEb

The Double Edge Sword of Rising Gas Prices

August 25, 2017

Lower gasoline prices present a dilemma for public transportation agencies.

On the upside, that means lower operating expenses for their buses. On the downside, it means more people are likely to drive than take public transportation.

It is not just local public transit that is suffering. Amtrak and intercity bus services have seen their ridership tumble due to lower gas prices.

A DePaul University study released this week found that eight of the 50 most heavily-traveled routes between cities 120 to 400 miles apart in America have lost express bus or Amtrak service since 2014.

Nine metropolitan areas in the United States with populations above 700,000 have no Amtrak passenger rail service or express bus service at all.

The decline of ridership on Amtrak and bus services such as Megabus and BoltBus has declined since 2015 in rough tandem with a decline in U.S. gasoline prices, the DePaul study found.

It concluded that so long as gasoline remains cheap, public transportation is bound to suffer.

When gas prices rose past $4 per gallon a few years ago, many transportation companies added a fuel surcharge to their normal pricing to cover their increased costs.

Ridership of public transportation and public intercity transportation typically rises when gas prices increase.

But gasoline prices this week across the United States averaged $2.34 per gallon, the American Automobile Association reported.

The DePaul study said the low cost of gasoline made driving cars an inexpensive transportation option, which led to the loss of intercity bus service in particular.

Joseph Schwieterman, co-author of the study and director of the Chaddick Institute at DePaul said there is wide agreement that gasoline taxes eventually will have to go up to help fund aging road infrastructure.

Although more expensive gasoline could lead more people to consider taking the bus, he said it could be a “double whammy” for bus operators because ridership gains could be offset by higher fuel costs to operate their fleets.

The DePaul study found that travelers tend to favor airplanes for trips of more than 400 miles. They favor their own automobile for trips of less than 100 miles.

Megabus Leaving East Lansing

December 29, 2016

Amtrak will have one less competitor in East Lansing, Michigan, after Megabus stops its service between there and Chicago on Jan. 9.

megabusMegabus, which is known for its low fares, currently stops at the Capital Area Multimodal Gateway, which is also used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan Blue Water.

Lack of customer demand and a corporate restructuring were behind the decision to pull out of the East Lansing-Chicago market, said Megabus spokesman Sean Hughes.

He also cited low fuel prices and competition from other bus companies.

Hughes indicated the Megabus will be cutting other routes serving Chicago next month.

Other bus companies that operate between East Lansing and Chicago include Greyhound and Indian Trails.

Megabus currently also serves Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids in Michigan.

News reports have indicated that Megabus will also cease service in Iowa in January where it stops in Davenport, Coralville  (near Iowa City) and Des Moines on a Chicago-Omaha, Nebraska, route.

When Low Bus Fares Clash With Low Gasoline Prices, Place Your Money on Low Gas Winning

February 15, 2016

When it comes to riding the bus for a low fare versus driving your car when gasoline prices are low, the latter is going to win most of the time.

That was one of the takeaways from the recent news that Megabus has ended service between Cleveland and Columbus.

On TransportationNot only has Amtrak ridership suffered from falling gasoline prices over the past year, but so has a bus company that sells tickets for as low as $1.

Joseph Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago who studies intercity bus transportation, told The Plain Dealer that the intercity bus industry is contracting after several years of rapid growth.

“Gas prices are raining on the parade of bus companies in a big way,” Schwieterman said. “It’s surprising how quickly people change their habits when fuel is cheap.”

It was also surprising that Megabus passengers tend generally to be more affluent, younger and more likely to own cars.

So when gas prices drop, they are inclined to drive rather than take public transportation.

That is not necessarily good news for advocates of public transportation, particularly those who favor free enterprise rather than government intervention to meet transportation needs.

Why? Because it means that if you need to take public transportation as opposed to want to take public transportation then your ability to travel hinges on the whims of the market.

And the market seeks to make money, not provide a social service or assure uninterrupted access to public transportation.

The decline of intercity rail passenger service in the 1960s received a lot of publicity and ultimately led to the creation of Amtrak.

The intercity bus industry experienced a similar decline, which also began in the 1960s, but accelerated in 1982 after the deregulation of the intercity bus industry.

In 1982, there were 11,820 places in America where you could board an intercity bus. By 2008 that had fallen to 2,423, a 20 percent decline.

A 2014 paper published by the AARP cited U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation figures showing that 8.4 million rural residents lost access to intercity bus service between 2005 and 2010.

Megabus has never been a viable public transportation option in rural and small town America. Since starting service in April 2006, Megabus has operated much like an airline.

You won’t find Megabus stopping in small towns or even small cities unless they happen to have a large state university.

That is why the only place that Megabus serves in largely rural West Virginia is Morgantown, the home of West Virginia University. In Ohio, Megabus serves Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

Megabus cited low ridership for ending its route linking Cleveland and Cincinnati.

But a Megabus spokesman told The Plain Dealer that the company had done well on the Cleveland-Columbus leg and might reinstate that service down the road.

In the meantime, Greyhound continues to serve the Cleveland-Columbus market, so those wishing or needing public transportation between the two cities still have it.

I am reminded of a report by the Interstate Commerce Commission of its investigation of plans by the Erie Lackawanna to discontinue a passenger train between Chicago and New York in the 1960s.

Although a number of people opposed the discontinuance, many of them had either never ridden the train or rode it infrequently.

That led the Commission to conclude that many who opposed ending the train wanted it as a standby service during, for example, inclement weather.

And for that they wanted the EL to continue losing money providing a service that few of them used.

It was true then and it remains true now. For all of the talk about the need for public transportation or even the desire for it, the private motor vehicle remains the first choice of most Americans so long as they can afford it.

It might seem that there are a lot of people wanting or willing to take public transportation between Cleveland and Columbus. There are, but so long as they see it as affordable most of them would rather drive than buy a low fare ticket on the bus.

End of Megabus Cleveland-Cincinnati Service Just Another in Long Line of Service Retrenchements

February 15, 2016

The news that Megabus in early January ended service linking Cleveland with Columbus and Cincinnati was not the first time that the cut-rate bus line has retrenched in the Cleveland market.

Back in March 2013 Cleveland was one of 10 Megabus hubs with service to 15 cities. You could have traveled to Atlanta; Pittsburgh; Akron; Buffalo, New York; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Detroit; Toledo; Chicago; New York; Columbus, Cincinnati; Lexington, Kentucky; Knoxville, Tennessee; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and State College, Pennsylvania.

MegabusBut now most of that service is gone. The only Megabus route left in Cleveland travels east to New York with an intermediate stop in State College and west to Chicago with an intermediate stop in Toledo.

Unlike Greyhound, which makes frequent stops on its routes, including in small towns, Megabus operates much like an airline with limited intermediate stops and relatively few cities served.

In Ohio, it serves Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, linking all of those cities with Chicago.

The route from Columbus makes intermediate stops in Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Launched on April 10, 1996, as a brand of Coach USA/Coach Canada, Megabus offered low fares and curbside pickup rather than using brick and mortar bus stations. In some cities, Megabus stops outside railroad stations, transit centers or shopping centers.

The initial route network fanned out from Chicago and included service to Cleveland.

Four years later, the Megabus business model began making a transition from a hub and spoke orientation to a point-to-point model.

Also like airlines, Megabus uses yield management to set fares. Although it has attracted much attention with its $1 tickets, Megabus imposes a $1.50 per transaction fee for tickets purchased online. Tickets can also be purchased by phone, but cannot be bought from bus drivers.

Shortly after it began serving Cleveland, Megabus added a stop in Toledo on Sept. 11, 2006, to its route M3 between Chicago and Cleveland.

Megabus extended the route to Pittsburgh on April 2, 2007, but ended the Pittsburgh service that September due to low ridership.

Cleveland-Pittsburgh service resumed on May 2011 with a stop in Akron. Service was six roundtrips with connections in Pittsburgh to such eastern points as Washington, New York and Philadelphia. The Pittsburgh-Cleveland route continued west to Detroit via Toledo.

The Akron stop was dropped on March 13, 2012. However, the next day, Megabus began a route linking Cleveland with Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The high water mark of Megabus service in Cleveland came in August 2013 when it launched a route to Atlanta that included stops in Columbus, Cincinnati, Lexington, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

It took 15.5 hours to get to Atlanta and one of the two buses making the trip left Cleveland at 2:30 a.m.

At the same time, Megabus also launched service to Erie, Pennsylvania, and Buffalo, New York.

The Cleveland Megabus stop was initially behind Tower City at West Third and Frankfort.  It also picked up passengers on the north side of Prospect Avenue.

On August 1, 2013, it began using the Cleveland RTA Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center, at 2115 East 22nd St. That enabled passengers access to public transportation and to have a sheltered place to wait for the bus.

Megabus said it was handling 13,000 passengers a month in Cleveland. Some buses used in the service were operated by Cleveland-based Lakefront Lines.

Service to Ann Arbor, Detroit and Pittsburgh ended in May 2014. “Unfortunately due to insufficient ridership service, the Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit-Ann Arbor route was discontinued on May 6,” said Sean Hughes, associate director of corporate affairs for Coach USA/megabus.com North America, in an interview at the time with The Plain Dealer.

By then, service had also ended to Buffalo and Erie.

A check of the Megabus website revealed that the company favors large cities and large colleges.

In West Virginia, for example, the only city served by Megabus is Morgantown, the home of West Virginia University.

In Pennsylvania, Megabus serves Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and State College. The latter is the home of Penn State University.

In Michigan, you can catch Megabus out of Ann Arbor (home of the University of Michigan), East Lansing (home of Michigan State University) as well as Detroit and Grand Rapids.

Nonetheless, Megabus serves just one city in Indiana (Indianapolis) and one in Kentucky (Louisville).

Indiana is a curious situation given that the bus from Indy to Chicago goes up Interstate 65 right past Lafayette and West Lafayette, the latter the home of Purdue University.

The Plain Dealer article reporting Megabus was ending service from Cleveland to Columbus and Cincinnati said lower gasoline prices was a contributing factor because many of the company’s passengers are affluent enough to own a car.

High gasoline prices and air travel hassles had just a few years earlier fueled a rise in intercity bus ridership.

A study by the Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Development at DePaul University in Chicago said the rise of discount city-to-city bus carriers had accounted for much of the increased ridership.

The head of the Chaddick Institute, Joseph Schwieterman, told The Plain Dealer in 2014 that for Megabus to leave the Cleveland-Pittsburgh market meant “Demand must have been intolerably weak.”

“Megabus doesn’t pull out of many markets,” said Schwieterman, a professor of public service management.

The Chaddick study found that the emergence of Megabus and other low-cost carriers had prompted Greyhound to upgrade its buses and emulate their business models.

GreyhoundYet there remain many key differences between passengers who ride Greyhound versus those who ride the so-called curbside bus lines.

Greyhound passengers are 39.8 percent female versus 52.3 percent female on the curbside carriers.

On Greyhound, 36.1 percent of the passengers are ages 18 to 25 compared with 47.8 percent on curbside carriers. Business is the purpose of 23.5 percent of those on Greyhound compared with 16.4 percent of those on curbside carriers.

An overwhelming percent of passengers on both types of carriers said they planned to use computers or mobile devices during their trip, 84.9 percent on Greyhound and 91.3 percent on curbside carriers.

Megabus has been in and out of markets before and every time it pulls out, it says it might come back.

In an interview with The Plain Dealder, Mike Alvich, vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus said the company continually assesses its routes.

“There are no guarantees,” he said. “We are a private business. We live or die based on ticket sales. We start routes based on our best research. Sales have to support operational costs. That’s one of the city pairs that did not work for us. But that doesn’t meant we won’t come back.”

Megabus dropped California service in 2008 and returned in 2013.

Schwieterman said Megabus has done best in heavily urbanized areas, between cities that are between three and six hours apart, and in places where parking is scarce and expensive.

“The Cleveland to Pittsburgh route might have been a little short to lure people out of their cars,” he said. And both cities are automobile-oriented towns.

Greyhound in 2010 launched its “Greyhound Express,” offering nonstop service between urban centers, guaranteed seating and such on-bus amenities as wireless Internet access and electrical outlets.

A visit to the Greyhound website leaves the unmistakable impression that this isn’t your grandfather’s bus company.

Nonetheless, Greyhound continues to have the image of being the transportation choice of last resort for travelers who cannot afford alternatives even if the number of small towns served by Greyhound has greatly diminished over the past three decades.

Megabus has a younger, more affluent clientele than Greyhound but Schwieterman said the differences between the two companies “are becoming more blurred all the time.”

Although Schwieterman said in that 2014 interview that the growth years of bus travel were behind the industry, “plenty of travelers are still discovering the bus. And millions of travelers have yet to discover the bus.”

Megabus Cuts Cleveland-Columbus Route

February 4, 2016

Megabus has quietly dropped its Cleveland-Columbus route due to declining ridership.

Also ended was service between Cleveland and Cincinnati. The route had operated twice daily between Cleveland and Atlanta with intermediate stops in Columbus, Cincinnati and points in Kentucky and Tennessee.

MegabusSean Hughes, director of corporate affairs for Megabus North America, told The Plain Dealer that the route was discontinued in early January.

“It wasn’t performing to expectations,” he said. “We had to make a change.”

Hughes said the Cleveland-Columbus leg did well and may be reinstated in the future. “If we choose to expand at some point, that route will be one we’ll look at,” he said.

Greyhound also operates a route linking Cleveland and Columbus.

Megabus has one route left in Cleveland, which runs westbound to Toledo and Chicago, and eastbound to State College, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

In mid-2013, Megabus served 15 cities from Cleveland, including Ann Arbor, Michigan; Pittsburgh; Detroit; and Buffalo, New York.

Megabus is noted for low fares with some as low as $1 one way.