Monday, November 24, 2008

A study in self government

Posted By on Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 4:00 AM


Ride on the Megabus

Megabus is a non-stop, "no-frills" intercity bus service run by Stagecoach in the United Kingdom and its partner, Coach USA in the United States (Dispatch, “Indy to Chicago for $1?” April 5-12). Chicago is the Megabus hub to other Midwest cities: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit and St. Louis.

Using standard coaches equipped with TVs, Megabus travels daily from Indy to Chicago in three hours. Fares most often range from $8 to $22 but can run higher depending upon destination and when the fare is booked. My brother and I purchased our round-trip tickets to Chicago for only $3 each as we must have been first in line, or ONLINE. There is no other way to book a trip on the Megabus except via the Internet.

There was no bus terminal. Per very precise instructions at the time of booking, everyone boarding the bus was grouped on the south side of the City County Building. With Megabus, the negative stereotype of a run-down, understaffed bus terminal doesn't exist.

Only a driver was on hand to meet us. Although the departure went smoothly, there was not a soul present to check our baggage or identify us.

Aboard the half-full, 3:30 p.m. bus, we spoke with several people and discovered varying reasons why they were riding. Noticeably absent were any minorities. My brother and I could only speculate that this might reflect Megabus' Internet-only booking policy or perhaps a flawed marketing scope.

Sitting comfortably in the front but looking a bit tired after a long day was a physician from the IU Medical Center, Dr. Veronica Masquida. Dr. Masquida has a boyfriend in Chicago and visits him on the weekends. In the back of the bus, away from everyone, was Neil Long, age 19, an education major at Taylor University. This was his first ride on the Megabus. Andy Farrell, a schoolteacher, flew into Milwaukee from Seattle and was on a 10-day "Megabus tour." He booked his travel six weeks in advance throughout the region, stopping in Chicago and Cincinnati. The total cost for all of his combined fares was $11.50.

On the return trip home, the bus was running late. The driver seemed anxious to get everyone going ASAP. Then, about half an hour into the journey, it somehow dawned on him that two teen-age girls who were supposed to be on the Milwaukee bus were with us instead. The bus driver, being the only real person in charge, took it upon himself to let the young ladies off on Stoney Island Avenue on Chicago's Southside.

A couple of passengers rallied the rest of us to urge the driver not to leave these girls behind; that we should at least wait until a cab arrived to pick them up. With only one or two passengers complaining about the further delay, the driver yielded to the rest of us.

It was only a short wait until we were back on track.

My brother and I have booked two more trips on Megabus. Not only is it a bargain, it’s a study in self-government.

Michael Flack



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