Megabus.com Promises Tickets to Chicago for $1

megabus.com rolls back into Columbus April 2nd. This banner was deplayed Thursday at the OSU megabus stop.
megabus.com rolls back into Columbus April 2nd. This banner was deplayed Thursday at the OSU megabus stop.

The discount bus carrier megabus.com says it’s re-establishing service to Columbus after a two-month run ended in failure just last year. Megabus offers express service to major cities in the Midwest through its Chicago hub. It’s trying to lure customers by offering fares as low as one dollar.

There was no megabus at Thursday morning’s press conference on Neil Drive at Ohio State University. Company president Bryony Chamberlain and an assistant did their best to keep a banner-sized megabus picture from blowing over in the wind. Nearby, a cardboard cutout of a cartoon-like bus driver called to mind the ValuJet logo of the 90s.

“We’re trying to do things on a very low cost basis which is why we’re internet based and we operate out of one hub in Chicago,” Chamberlain says. “And because we’re selling at a low price, we expect to have high volumes of people traveling.”

The company’s buses will pick up passengers at OSU and at COTA’s downtown terminal starting April 2nd and deliver them to downtown Chicago in about six hours. Chamberlain says last year’s start-up failed in Columbus because not enough people knew about it.

“We were focusing at that point on travel from Chicago outwards. It didn’t work. We weren’t having enough passengers traveling. But we’ve now realized that most people are coming from the outlying cities into Chicago so we’re trying to re-launch now and get people to travel from Columbus to Indianapolis and Chicago.

Megabus is part of a British company that began operating in the Midwest last year. The company says 40% of its riders are students, 40% are women aged 35 to 45; others include military personnel and ‘Silver Surfers,’ as Chamberlain calls them; seniors who’ve learned to use the internet. Reaction to the $1 fares from Ohio State students Mike Huddleston and Robbie Robinson was mixed.

“Well I guess if I had a reason to go, it seems reasonable,” Huddleston says. “But right now I don’t have a reason so I don’t know if I’d go. But dollar bus fares? Sounds fair.”

“Yeah, I’m actually from Illinois so that sounds like a pretty good deal,” Robinson says. “It’s usually a pain in the butt to get back home but a $1 bus ticket doesn’t sound too bad.”

Laura Petrus wondered how such a low fare was possible.

“I don’t understand this,” Petrus says. “How is it only a dollar?”

Those dollar fares are limited in number, for passengers who book several weeks in advance on a bus that’s not near capacity. The highest Chicago fare, according to Chamberlain, is $43.50.

Chamberlain says megabus.com transported a quarter-million people in its first year. She says the company is persuading more drivers, like Monica Fullerton, to take the bus instead.

“Yes I would!”

Fullerton is a lecturer at Ohio State.

“Sitting on a bus, not having to worry about driving, you can read you can sleep. And a dollar’s pretty cheap; the cost of gasoline would be more than that,” Fullerton says.

Megabus says service to Chicago will operate daily.

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