Megabus: ‘We’re not your grandfather’s bus company’

Making a weekend trip to the city or Nevada will soon be much cheaper for Sacramentans.

A low-cost express bus company -– – will start making non-stop trips from Old Sacramento to San Francisco and Sparks/Reno, Nev., starting Dec. 12. The double-decker buses can carry 81 passengers, includes a restroom, Wi-Fi capabilities and power outlets. 

"We’re not your grandfather’s bus company," said Mike Alvich, vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus. The majority of customers are young professionals, he said, followed by young women taking day or weekend trips together, seniors, families and business people.

One-way tickets start at $1 and increase as the departure date approaches. But for the first week of travel, the company will offer the $1 fare to all passengers. The most someone could expect to pay for a one-way trip is $20, Alvich said.

"We think people will be taking leisure trips," Alvich said. "We’ve made it possible for people to fulfill their travel dreams."

That may be a stretch, bordering on Disney-style marketing, but their biggest competitor isn’t airlines or even other bus companies, says Alvich. It’s the car, followed by people’s fear that they can’t afford to travel.

"So much so that we’ve changed our advertising," Alvich said. "Now we’re saying the expense of travel shouldn’t keep you from doing the things you love."

But how can the company afford to offer $1 seats and survive? Well, there are no brick and mortar ticket offices, Alvich explains, and no bus terminals. "That’s a big expense that’s removed," he said. Most bookings are made online, so the goal is to make sure the buses are as close to full as possible.

"If you get the right mix of fares on an 81-seat bus, you’re not only able to pay bills, you’re able to make a profit," Alvich said.

The company will start with four daily departures to San Francisco, and two going to Sparks/Reno. The stop in the city is at the CalTrain station – at 4th and Townsend streets – while the stop in Sparks/Reno is at the RTC Centennial Plaza. Buses will take off from Old Sacramento – 1020 Front Street, by the Sacramento Railroad Museum.

Departure times to San Francisco start at 8 a.m., and run through 5:20 p.m., according to the website. Buses to Sparks/Reno are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.  

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November 29, 2012 | 5:39 PM

Very nice! Now if you could just drop me off at the intersection of I-80 and hwy 89 South …

February 11, 2013 | 5:11 PM

I’m sure anyone who had to give you a ride would be relieved to drop you off ANYWHERE as soon as possible after you entered their vehicle.

November 29, 2012 | 6:14 PM

I like the overall concept – but I’m not sure for whom the Railroad Museum location is convenient as a starting/ending spot. Old Sac doesn’t have a high number of residents and it’s not an obvious connecting point for lightrail and multiple bus lines. A Sacramento location that is adjacent to lightrail and/or bus lines, and also adjacent to a major parking lot would seem more logical. Correct me I’m wrong, but to connect to that bus from, say, Rancho or Roseville via RT would be likely to require taking lightrail to St. Rose of Lima Park and then walking through Downtown Plaza and the Highway 5 underpass, then walking across Old Sac. And Downtown Plaza is not always easy to walk through at night, depending on how permissive the security patrols are. It would probably be better just to have the Bus begin/end at somewhere like 10th and K, on the lightrail and next to a City garage – and then have the City authorize some kind of all-day parking rate in connection with a bus ticket purchase. Just an idea.

November 29, 2012 | 6:54 PM

You can walk less than roughly a block and a half from the Sacramento Valley Light Rail Station, Served by Gold Line trains and bus route 30 to get to the Railroad Museum and the terminal for Megabus at 1020 Front Street. It’s a straight, Well lit path along the old Amtrak passenger platforms.

November 29, 2012 | 10:07 PM

OK – cool – I don’t know the routes very well.

November 29, 2012 | 7:02 PM

Totally don’t get this. The fares in this article are just for the first run, or will they be offering $1 fares continuously? And the max of a $20 fare is the most you’ll pay for going to San Fran?

November 29, 2012 | 7:36 PM

Davi- That looks to be the business model. I went to the website and ran a query for a day trip from Albany, NY to 7th Avenue in Manhattan, NY. It was $15.00 from Albany to Manhattan and $12.00 to return from Manhattan to Albany. Total with reservation fee was $27.50.

I picked what I thought would be the most expensive place to travel and then compared a smaller area and the prices were nearly identical. I can’t wait to try it!

February 11, 2013 | 4:17 PM

Read the wikipedia article for this company to see how their pricing/economic model works.

November 29, 2012 | 9:58 PM

Impressive. $2 roundtrip to SF!

November 30, 2012 | 5:51 AM

There’s just no way that would keep a company afloat in the long term.

November 30, 2012 | 8:10 AM

Well, the company owners in the artilce said it was, so…..

November 30, 2012 | 7:14 PM

It might fail here, but this is a fairly large and successful company on the east coast.

November 29, 2012 | 10:43 PM

1020 Front Street is not the address of the California State Railroad Museum–that is located two blocks away at 111 I Street. The 1020 Front Street location is the Central Pacific freight shed, where Sacramento Southern trains board. It’s technically part of CSRM, but I can imagine some customers being very angry if they wait out in front of CSRM two blocks away and the bus never shows up!

As to that 1020 K Street location, a lot of tour buses stop there, so I think it may already be on a lot of tour buses’ routes (Megabus is owned by a tour bus line.) It would be very convenient for Bay Area visitors to Old Sac (a lot of Old Sac visitors are from the Bay Area, and Megabus would be a lot cheaper than gas, tolls and parking) but transit connections are a little rough–the closest light rail or bus lines are at the Sacramento Valley Station a few blocks away (closer than 7th and K.)

November 30, 2012 | 12:24 AM

I think that’s my favorite part of this story – potentially more visitors to Old Sac.

And this competes with Amtrak for me. I’ll give it a try. I love Amtrak, but those fares are hard to beat.

November 30, 2012 | 8:04 AM

I’ll give it a try, but yeah, I love my Capitol Corridor. If I don’t have enough frequent flyer points to take it for free, I might give this a try.

November 30, 2012 | 9:10 AM

Same–Cap Corridor is great, though it would be nice to avoid a transfer in Richmond.

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November 30, 2012 | 5:46 AM

You get what you pay for. Call me skeptical, but I’m wondering if that $1 fare includes INTERIOR seating???

February 11, 2013 | 5:10 PM

“You get what you pay for?” What exactly did you get, PW? … or, did you actually never take this bus, so you’re not in a position to comment on it one way or the other?

November 30, 2012 | 7:23 AM

I like Amtrak as well, but $20 max to the City vs $50 on the train is going to be hard to beat.

November 30, 2012 | 10:01 AM

I think $20 max one way, right? If so, it is certainly better than the $31 of the train, but I don’t think it’s $20 round trip …

November 30, 2012 | 8:47 AM

Megabus is huge on the east coast and is awesome! You can get from Boston to DC, New York to Boston for cheap. They are nice buses and it’s a great addition! The fares start at a dollar and as you get closer to your departure date they increase.

November 30, 2012 | 2:41 PM

I used Megabus to make my way down the east coast. I have not one complaint about the services.

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November 30, 2012 | 9:53 AM

about time. amtrrak can stuff their high fees and crappy schedules!

November 30, 2012 | 10:01 AM

crappy schedules?

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November 30, 2012 | 10:27 AM

yeah, like late half the time, taking three hours to go 86 miles and going backwards to accomodate freight. please don’t tell me you are going to try and argue amtrak with me. let me guess, you object to this specious reasoning and are already formulating a defense of our broken rail system.

November 30, 2012 | 11:59 AM

Megabus competes with Amtrak on Capitol Corridor which offers a lot more trains, especially during commuting hours (Megabus is effectively worthless for commuting since the first bus leaves at 8), and offers a lot more stops for people who care about that. (I have more friends in Oakland than SF so end up going to Oakland more often.) Not sure about 3 hours–do you have any numbers on their tardiness? They’re always pretty timely when I’m aboard, but that’s not that often. They take longer than driving because of the stops, to be sure, but the difference is usually pretty reasonable.

By the way, why get so defensive when someone simply asked you to clarify a comment you offered with no justification?

November 30, 2012 | 12:21 PM

Man, before I lived her I would commute from Berkeley up to Sacramento on Amtrak. Comfy seats and tables, but the high prices and freight delegation killed me. Frequent 2 hour delays, canceles night trains, etc.

Maybe they could lower the prices if they treated the capitol corridor more like a commuter train with fewer tables and plushy chairs and less like a first class cabin.

November 30, 2012 | 7:18 PM

I’m with you about delays, though I’ve not been late very often. And I find it reliable as an alternative to driving when traffic can make the trip just as difficult.

But I think it was just an issue of semantics. I love Amtrak’s schedule. They have a training leaving almost every hour and they have very early departures that work for my business trips.

November 30, 2012 | 11:56 AM

The fares are each way. Max $40.50 round trip to SF or Sparks. Megabus has nice equipment. Most are Alexander Dennis double deck coaches with generous leg room and power outlets with access to WiFi.

November 30, 2012 | 2:05 PM

Wife just booked the family a little trip to SF to check out the holiday decorations and window shopping.

November 30, 2012 | 10:21 PM

I have used MegaBus on the East Coast and it is a very good alternative. The buses are fairly nice and the prices can’t be beat. My recollection is my bus trip from Washington DC to New York was about 1/3 the price of Amtrak.

December 4, 2012 | 9:59 AM

FANTASTIC!! The East Coast has had this sort of service for a long time – about time they come to NorCal! Yay!

December 4, 2012 | 10:06 AM

Just bought tickets. What’s the parking situation? Any overnight parking for bus users? I emailed the compay last week with the question and haven’t hear back.

February 11, 2013 | 5:08 PM

It’s no frills; didn’t you read the article? This company doesn’t have “stations.”

December 4, 2012 | 11:26 AM

This is most likely an introductory, market-entry fare. $1 round trips are indeed unsustainable long-term, and you can expect them to go up. So, there are two options: Either the fares on this practically-free bus service will go up when people support it, or, if people don’t support it, it will go away altogether. So shall we use it and keep it around, or let it go by the wayside and resume lamenting gas prices and Amtrak fares six months after it’s gone?

February 11, 2013 | 5:07 PM

Do your research, Aaron; this is congestion pricing as practiced in the hotel and airline industry. It is a long-proven economic model.

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