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No frills' gains pace

Safe, user-friendly, green, efficient and affordable: an example of a coach operation that ticks all the Smart Move boxes is Megabus.com in the US. Launched in 2006, the service is operated by Coach USA, a subsidiary of the Stagecoach Group. It is the first intercity express bus line dedicated to providing high-quality, low cost travel options to 17 Midwest and 13 Northeast cities. The fleets cover long distance, intercity routes of between 300 to  400km at an average speed of 80km. So with journey times over three hours the coaches must provide superior comfort to their public transport counterparts.


Here amenities include free onboard Wi-Fi, power sockets, DVD video capabilities, reclining seats, safety belts and ADA accessibility. The service started up after 9/11, when domestic travelers became more wary of taking the plane. Tighter security checks at airports combined with the fact airports are rarely located in city centres, meaning more time wasted, have also helped boost the appeal of the coach. Furthermore the Megabus ticketing system is designed to save time and money. Only available via online booking and the earlier the better, tickets cost as little as $1 (€0.7) for a single journey. Surely a good incentive at a time when US households are feeling the pinch.


Indeed a survey by the company found that 92% of its customers chose bus travel over other forms of transport to save money. “The Megabus service allows people the chance to vacation, visit family and friends or travel to business meetings without worrying about the cost,” said company president and COO Dale Moser. “The rapid increase in our ticket sales […] is clear evidence that travellers are and will continue to look for more affordable travel options.”


The fleet of single and double deckers is designed with the environment in mind too. Each double decker has the potential to shift 81 cars off the roads and, according to Mr Moser, is 10 times more efficient that a 737 plane and 25 times more efficient than a single passenger car per passenger per mile. Specifically the fuel consumption per passenger per mile is 0.002 gallon – a 737 is .02 gallon and a single passenger car is .05 gallon.The combination of all these elements is clearly a winning formula.


Since its launch, Megabus took just two years to reach the one million customer mark, it has now served over nine million and continues to expand. Proof that if the industry takes on board all those criteria championed by Smart Move – safety, user-friendly, green, efficient and affordable – it can help engineer a modal shift and change travel behaviour for the benefit of all.


Source:  “Smart Moves for the Industry”, MobilityMag, by Lesley Brown, June 2011

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