A discount intercity bus company that made splashes in Detroit and Cleveland in April by advertising bargain $1 rides to Chicago plans to make Toledo the first addition to its route map in mid-September.
Megabus.com, which sells seat reservations only on the Internet and operates no bus stations, will add a stop at Toledo's Southwyck Shopping Center to its Cleveland-Chicago route Sept. 12. The company, incorporated in New Jersey as Independent Bus Co. and a subsidiary of Coach USA, sells reservations up to 45 days in advance, so the Toledo service becomes available for booking today.
Potential passengers had best be quick to capture the $1 fare that Megabus.com promotes - depending on how popular the company expects a particular trip to be, it's available for between two and seven of a bus's 56 seats. And the actual minimum charge is $1.50, since Megabus.com charges a 50-cent "reservation fee" on all bookings.
"But even the top fare would be more economical than any of the alternatives - the train, another bus company, or driving your own car," Dale Moser, president of Coach USA, said yesterday.
Mr. Moser said he did not know offhand what the top fares from Toledo to either Chicago or Cleveland would be, but they'll be comparable to the current one-way fares of $25 from Detroit to Chicago and $32 from Cleveland to Chicago.
Megabus decided to add the Toledo stop, Mr. Moser said, based on "a lot of inquiries from citizens via the Internet" about its service, which began between Chicago and Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis-St. Paul on April 10.
Most inquiries were about service to Chicago, he said, but the schedule will be convenient for travel to Cleveland too.
Megabus now operates two daily buses each way between Cleveland and Chicago. Adding the Toledo stop at Southwyck made it convenient to the Ohio Turnpike,
Mr. Moser said, and the stop won't add time to the Cleveland-Chicago run because it will replace a rest stop the buses have been making on the turnpike.
While the bus stop will share space with a Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority park-and-ride lot at the mall, Megabus is not planning for passengers to park there overnight.
"We're expecting that most of our passengers will be dropped off" by others or use public transportation to reach the Megabus stop, said Travis Whittington, a company spokesman.
James Gee, TARTA general manager, said accommodating Megabus customers in the park-and-ride lot wouldn't be a space problem, but there is no security there for vehicles left overnight.
"Certainly, the Megabus would be attractive for day trips to Chicago and Cleveland," Mr. Gee said, noting that current train schedules between Toledo and Cleveland are particularly inconvenient for local travel.
Since its startup, Mr. Moser said, Megabus has carried nearly 100,000 passengers.
In a survey of passengers it released last month, the company said 45 percent reported using Megabus.com instead of driving. Twenty-four percent previously took the train, 17 percent previously used a different bus line, and 13 percent had switched from flying.
Amtrak and Greyhound representatives said if Megabus.com had taken passengers from them, they hadn't noticed it.
"All of our short-distance trains out of Chicago are doing fairly well," Amtrak's Karina Romero said, noting that ridership on the Detroit route was up 10 percent last month compared with June, 2005, and the St. Louis and Milwaukee services have had comparable growth lately.
"It's really hard to attribute any changes to any specific cause. We haven't done a survey like that," said Anna Folmnsbee, a Greyhound spokesman.
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