7 On Your Side

Megabus revs its engines in San Francisco Bay Area

Monday, July 29, 2013

A discount bus service that's become popular on the East Coast has now made it to the Bay Area. Megabus and their shiny new buses are being spotted around town.

Megabus provides service from the Bay Area to Sacramento, Reno and Los Angeles with fares starting as low as $1. There is little doubt why people are attracted to the service but is it as good as advertised?

A steady stream of passengers climbs aboard a Megabus for the 7.5 hour trip to Los Angeles and price is a factor. The Gonzalez family purchased round-trip tickets from L.A. to San Francisco for just $33 each.

"Because of the price, that was a major consideration," said Raul Gonzalez of Covina, Calif.

"I found Megabus and it was $33 going, I think $36 coming back," said David Stein of San Francisco.

"My ticket were like $15 for one way," said Calvin Demorest of Los Angeles.

Fares fluctuate according to the demand but on every bus, there's at least one seat available for $1.

"If its slow booking, we may hold those fares down until we either get to, you know a full capacity there or the booking rate speeds up," said Megabus' Mike Waters.

Megabus began service in the Bay Area in December and it didn't take long for Greyhound to respond. It now also offers limited one dollar fares, along with faster service.

"We rolled out our express service back in May of 2012. During that time frame we've seen about 25 percent increase in passenger volume," said Greyhound's Alphonso Rodriquez.

7 On Your Side compared fares on Megabus with Greyhound using three different itineraries from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Fares on Greyhound were comparable to Megabus if the ticket was booked as little as two weeks in advance. But the price could double if the ticket was purchased closer to the departure date. One $1 fare was available, and that was on a Megabus trip that got in at 2 a.m.

Discount bus service has been popular on the East Coast for years but the industry has come under intense scrutiny in recent months. A safety crackdown by federal regulators has led to the shutdown of several other bus companies on the East Coast.

"In a lot of cases its driver's and maintenance are the two primary issues with the operators that have been shut down," said Waters.

The California Public Utilities Commission says Megabus has never received any violations in this state. But the Megabus service operating under a different license in Illinois crashed on the interstate last year; killing one person and injuring 47 others.

Megabus is too new in California to adequately compare its safety records to Greyhounds. Unlike Greyhound, Megabus does not have a bus terminal. It picks up passengers curbside, and only sells tickets online. And Megabus service is limited to major destinations such as Los Angeles.

Both Greyhound and Megabus offer Wi-Fi and power outlets.

Megabus in the Bay Area picks up passengers curbside across the street from San Francisco's Caltrain station, San Jose Diridon train station and near the West Oakland BART station.

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transportation, travel, california public utilities commission, san jose, los angeles, reno, sacramento, crash, 7 on your side, michael finney
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