Despite delays, bus stops in parking lots with no shelter and some high-profile accidents, the Megabus remains immensely popular for its super-low fares to cities from D.C. to Miami to San Diego.
If you have ever seen a Megabus on the highway, with its "$1 fare" sign on the side, that's no lie: If you book well enough in advance, there is a seat on every bus for just a buck.
But one woman is wondering if Megabus is going downhill after spending an entire weekend trying to get a Megabus ride to Chicago.
Where's the bus?
Denise Schubert was trying to get her son to Chicago for his new job earlier this month, so she booked him on a 12:30 p.m. bus to the Windy City.
But shortly before noon, he received a text alert about a bus change.
"He received an email an hour before that a Windstar charter bus was going to pick him up," she explained.
But after two hours, no bus appeared. "We called Windstar," she said, "and they knew nothing about a Megabus pickup."
Frustrated, she says, "he called Megabus again and they told him somebody from a Safe Travels bus would pick him up about 4:45 p.m."
But no Safe Travels bus showed up, she says.
Tries again the next day
So they bought a new ticket for the next day, Saturday. "Different Megabus, different day, different pickup," Schubert said.
But again, she says, the lunchtime bus was a no show. "They said they would be there at 1:30. Then my son got another email saying it would be a Windstar charter bus again, not a Megabus."
But two hours later, still no bus. "At almost 3 p.m., we decided to leave," she said.
Denise ended up flying her son to his new job in Chicago for $400 one way, instead of the $39 they were expecting to pay on Megabus.
Megabus: Buses did run
Travelers this past Friday had better luck: The 12:30 p.m. Megabus to Chicago arrived on time and took off 10 minutes later.
We contacted Megabus about the weekend mix-ups, where its parent company, Coach USA, said there was a a switch of buses and stop locations, but that all passengers were texted and emailed about the changes.
The company says there were plenty of seats on the next scheduled bus to Chicago, and that the bus did run both days.
Travelers love it despite complaints
Blogs and complaints boards are filled with Megabus complaints, and the buses have been in several accidents, one of them killing four passengers when the top of a double decker bus hit a low bridge abutment.
Fans, though, say despite the criticism, you can't do better than Megabus for its low, low fares. It's not just cheaper than driving or flying, it is often cheaper than Greyhound.
"As far as the price, you can't beat it, and the convenience of it," one woman told us at Cincinnati's Gest Street stop.
The Better Business Bureau gives Megabus an "A" rating, despite almost 1,000 complaints, many about delays or poor customer service.
But despite all the online complaints -- and unprotected bus stops out in the heat, rain and cold -- it's hard to resist the lure of Megabus, and those super-low fares.
As long as it is available, you can be sure customers will continue to line up for its low fares, free WiFi and hip image.
As always, don't waste your money.
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