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Springfield residents looking for a cheaper way to travel might be interested to know that Megabus is now serving the Queen City. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe reports that since late December, the bus company has been offering fares to Saint Louis, Oklahoma City, Chicago and Dallas for as little as one dollar.
SOUND: Bus stop
Megabus operates much like airlines; they offer the cheapest bus fares to those who book the earliest –up to three months in advance. As the departure date nears, and more seats are sold, ticket prices go up.
Megabus loads and unloads its passengers at the Springfield City Utilities Transportation Department, located off Boonville Avenue just north of Division Street. It was there that I met Terry Wheeler on a cold and windy morning.
“I’m a truck driver, I deliver new trucks, and I basically run my own business. I’m an independent contractor, so I generally try to find the cheapest transportation back to my house, where our yard is, which is Dallas, Texas. This ticket I paid, to get me back from Springfield to Dallas is five dollars. You can’t beat five dollars,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler bought his ticket at the last minute. He found a cheap ticket because he says the route from St. Louis, through Springfield and Oklahoma City, to Dallas normally doesn’t carry a lot of passengers. So the less popular a Megabus route, the more likely you are to find mega cheap deals a couple days before your bus ride.
So how can Megabus stay afloat by offering five dollar bus tickets? Wheeler says for one, some Megabuses are double deckers, which can carry roughly twice the amount of passengers as regular commercial buses. He points out Megabus makes fewer stops because it only serves larger cities, unlike Greyhound, so the buses spend less time idling at bus stations loading and unloading passengers. And speaking of those bus stations – Megabus doesn’t have any. They pick passengers up at shopping center parking lots, outside train stations or transportation centers, even at some college campuses. So if you find yourself waiting for a Megabus, Wheeler says you’ll need to risk the elements.
“There are Megabus stops that are out in the open in parking lots. If you’re not from there, like us, where you can sit in the car, you’re gonna stand out in the rain, in the snow. I’ve stood out in the rain and the snow waiting on a Megabus, and that sucks. But I would say it’s worth it. If you can get across the country for a dollar, you can deal with a little bit of snow,” Wheeler said.
I also met Tim Clayton at the bus stop. He works with Wheeler, and first started riding Megabus several years ago when he lived in Saint Louis, so he could travel to Chicago. Clayton says each Megabus is equipped with Wi-Fi, which he says is spotty at best, as well as a bathroom.
“It does hold a lot of people, so the bathrooms get messy at times,” Clayton said.
And in windy conditions, Clayton says the ride can get a little wobbly. More surface area on the double decker buses means a strong side wind wobbles the bus a little bit, but as a truck driver, he’s used to that.
“They don’t usually drift out of lane, and if they hit that side strip, that’s what it’s used for. But I’ve never been scared of riding them. They’ve always been very good. They’re very smooth, I’ll fall asleep most of my trip on the Megabus, and I won’t wake up until I get where I’m going,” Clayton said.
The route schedules are set every three months, and they only change when a new city is added. Megabuses run seven days a week.
Wheeler says he’s never seen a Megabus arrive early - they’re usually late. But that’s the nature of the commercial bus business, he says. Finally, we see the double decker heading toward us – ten minutes after its scheduled arrival.
SOUND: Megabus arriving
Versillia Towles is the driver of this particular bus. She’s worked with Megabus since August, and says it’s important to provide opportunities to travel the country on a shoestring.
“People can afford it during this day in time, with money being funny and change being strange,” Towles said.
For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.