#263, Megabus returns to California market

James Raia

Megabus, the discount city-to-city bus system, debuted in 2006. Marketed as having served more than 50 million customers in more than 500 cities, the express service features tickets between metro cities for as little as $1 each way.

The travel option available throughout the United States and in Europe, has had successes and failures. But with heavy travel season approaching, Megabus recently announced its return to the California market.

According to its press release, May 15 marked the return of Megabus to California with three trips daily between Anaheim, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.

Colin Emerson, VP Commercial for Megabus, is our guest this week on The Weekly Driver Podcast.

While co-host Bruce Aldrich is on vacation, James Raia interviews Emberson about the service’s return to California.

Megabus began its service on April 10, 2006 in the United Kingdom and advanced to the United States within two years with routes between Chicago and Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Louis. Several major city hubs were quickly added as the inexpensive travel option had increasing success as a commuter and vacation travel option.

“We pride ourselves in being a really good value-based, reliable, green option for people to get around,” said Emberson. “We want to make it as easy as possible. We want to make it as enjoyable as possible.”

Like many businesses, Megabus face challenges during the pandemic.

“We have a very good product and we know there’s a need for affordable, safe to get folks around, Emberson said. “What we do is look to offer a really good value when things are a little bit slower. When the domain is high, the prices will reflect that.”

A recent search for a ticket from Sacramento to San Francisco within the month revealed a one-way ticket for as low as $7.77. A return ticket was also available for the same price.

Emberson emphasized that passengers can use the service with the company’s app as little as five minutes before departure. Most Megabus users book tickets like airplane travel with advance purchases and with ticket prices based on supply and demand.

Another popular travel option, Emberson noted, is random travel with the company’s “fare finder.”

The idea is explained: A trip from Sacramento leaving on June 27 at 3:05 a.m. at arriving in Los Angeles at 2:05 p.m. also costs $7.77. A return trip leaving at 7:05 a.m., and arriving at 7:15 p.m., also costs $7.77. A trip leaving June 27 and returning June from Las Vegas to St. George, Utah, is as low as $52 each way. A trip from Louisville, KY to Evansville, Ind., on the same dates is as low as $40. Some off-hour, low-demand travel is as little as $1 per each way. All transactions included a $3.99 service fee.

“We did see quite a lot of folks buying very last-minute tickets which, I guess, is somewhat surprising to me that somebody on a whim might take in some cases an eight, nine or 10-hour bus ride,” said Emberson. “But I guess some people live a little more spontaneously than I might.”

Megabus also has a call center to assist passengers with ticketing and other information. The company’s website is https://us.megabus.com/.  The telephone number is 877-462-6342.

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Article Last Updated: June 12, 2023.

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