Megabus joins fleet of Chattanooga travel options, offering low-cost non-stop transportation

Megabus joins fleet of Chattanooga travel options, offering low-cost non-stop transportation

October 25th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

In this June 17, 2008 file photo, a Megabus double-decker bus drives through New York's Times Square to inaugurate its service to the northeast. Once considered the travel choice of last resort, some say the confluence of rising gas prices, airline headaches and the rise of discount carriers is creating a kind of renaissance in the bus industry.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

BUS STOPS

Megabus coaches will pick up and drop off Chattanooga passengers near the Rave movie theater at 5402 South Terrace in East Ridge. Other cities will have bus stops at:

  • Atlanta - MARTA's Civic Center station downtown, on the northbound side of West Peachtree Street NW south of the intersection with Pine Street NE.

  • Knoxville: Knoxville Transit Center, 301 Church Ave.

  • Nashville: Ramada at Downtown Stadium, 303 Interstate Drive and the north side of Commerce Street and 5th Avenue North.

To order tickets, visit www.megabus.com

Source: Megabus spokeswoman Amanda Mullin

In an environment of expensive air fares and high gas prices, low-cost busing is a nationally growing market edging into Chattanooga.

Bus tickets go on sale today for nonstop trips from Chattanooga to area cities. Starting Nov. 16, point-to-point coach company Megabus will run four daily trips to Atlanta and two to Knoxville and Nashville. Tickets start at $1, rising in cost as buses fill and trip dates near.

"They're offering service that is, in some cases, competing against the airlines at a more affordable cost," said Dan Ronan, spokesman for the American Bus Association. "Especially on trips that are 200, 300, 400 miles in length, they're very competitive in terms of competing with the airlines when you take into account the time you'd spend getting to the airport, getting through security."

Bus passengers are approaching the same volume as airline travelers. According to Ronan, motor coach ridership has been growing, and 750 million passengers were carried last year. Airplanes flew about 780 million over that same period.

The buses have been competitive with drivers, too. Booked far enough in advance, bus fares can be far lower than gas and wear and tear costs.

Amenities such as free Internet access and laptop charge stations let commuters be productive during the time they'd otherwise spend with their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

Megabus has used those selling points to grow from a single market operation in 2006 to having a presence in 74 cities across the country.

Dale Moser, the company's president and chief operating officer, said when they started, it took Megabus 18 months to attract its 1 millionth customer. Now, the company carries 1 million people every 42 days.

The company is betting this expansion into the South will keep that number rising. Including staff, equipment, market research and operating costs, the company invested about $10 million in the Atlanta-centered market.

"We've seen a fairly significant demand looking for budget travel in the Southeast. There is some demand, there is some potential for good ridership," he said. "There's an unlimited market of those of us who drive."

The point-to-point bus market is largely untapped in Chattanooga, he said. Competitors such as Greyhound offer bus service to Atlanta, Knoxville and Nashville, but virtually no non-stop drives.

But Glenn Henderson, a commission agent for the local Greyhound, said he isn't worried Megabus will entirely replace Greyhound on trips to those cities.

"There may be some cut into our business on that, but the majority of our ticket sales are everywhere," he said. "We don't just do Nashville, Knoxville and Atlanta."

With trucking companies Covenant Transport and U.S. Xpress based in Chattanooga, the biggest segment of local Greyhound riders are truckers on their way to pick up rigs in other cities and states.

Though a small part of their business, Henderson expects Greyhound will be competitive with Megabus.

He said though his buses stop in more towns, Greyhound offers more destinations. On Greyhound buses, travelers can connect with other cities to travel to all 48 states in the continental United States.

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