Megabus to make D.C. its 5th hub, with 10 new routes

By Danielle Douglas Capital Business Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; A23

Discount motor coach Megabus plans to make the District its fifth travel hub, with 10 new routes leaving from its parking lot base at H and 10th streets Northwest starting next month in a move the company projects will boost its overall business by 40 percent.

Washington area travelers can soon expect Megabus service to cities such as Richmond, Knoxville, Tenn., and Raleigh, N.C. To begin the expansion, the company is offering 10,000 free seats online for travel to and from the new cities from Dec 15. through Jan 15.

Megabus has operated in the District since 2008. It plans to add 32 buses to its fleet of double-deckers, along with 85 drivers, mechanics and general staff members primarily based in the District.

"We've continued to see huge demand on social networks and our [Web] site, where consumers say, 'Wish there was service in our city.' A lot of people want to come into Washington, and they will have an affordable way to do it," said Dale Moser, president and chief operating officer of Megabus parent company Coach USA in Chicago.

Known for one-way fares starting at $1, Megabus has been popular with local travelers, who on weekends huddle under the parking lot archway, waiting for buses to New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Megabus passengers often wait next to ticket holders for rival line BoltBus, which also operates from the private lot. Congestion on neighboring streets has not been an issue, said Karyn LeBlanc, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Transportation Department.

LeBlanc said the bus lines are scouting new sites because they will have to move in March once construction on a hotel adjacent to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center gets further underway.

Megabus has served 7 million travelers along the eastern corridor since its 2006 launch. Moser would not share exact revenue but said the company has witnessed growth above 50 percent and hired 270 new employees this year.

Intercity bus service has expanded 5.1 percent in the past year and rail and air travel has waned, according to the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. About 3,900 privately operated motor coach companies, according to the American Bus Association, travel the roads in the United States, generating nearly $112.7 billion in economic activity last year.

In the Washington area, Megabus competes with nine charter bus companies, most of which offer limited regional service between major cities. Like a number of its rivals, Megabus offers complimentary WiFi and sells tickets online, forgoing the bricks-and-mortar stations that are a staple for Greyhound and Peter Pan.

Adhering to this stripped-down service model helps mitigate costs, Moser said.

"The amenities and the value you're getting for motor coach service today are evolving," he said. "We're getting a lot of people who would have never thought of taking a bus before but are attracted to the quality."

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