The Faux Allure of a Cheap MegaBus Ticket

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 15 times, I must be an idiot.

I had to journey from Philadelphia to New York City tonight and had two options—Amtrak for $50 and MegaBus for $17. I had not been on MegaBus since May and because of the price differential and the still-advertised amenity of onboard WiFi, I booked a ticket with them. In fact, I booked several tickets as I have a couple trips to Washington coming up next month. Those trips were cheap enough--$5-7 each because I was buying in advance, but now I am questioning whether to even utilize them.

Onboard, the internet was not working, as usual. The signal was there—it indicated connected—but no data transmission and another two hours of limited productivity followed. I still had my laptop with power as well as a book to read, but I had clients waiting on award bookings and the early evening on the East Coast is the prime time to knock out award research (when even the airline elite phone lines tend to be a bit more clogged). Needless to say the internet was missed.

The bus also happened to be full, which was a major annoyance though not something I have any right to complain about. While MegaBus is fine when you have an open seat next to you, it is downright uncomfortable when the bus is crowded.

Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service has in-seat power, decent WiFi (it has always worked for me, without exception), and room to spread out. Amtrak trains, especially during rush hour, can be crowded too—but at least you have legroom and a slightly larger armrest.

So I made a mistake today. The $50 would have been better spent on Amtrak. And once again I put too much faith in MegaBus. With full busses, I won’t hold my breath that they will make the necessary capital expenditures to solve their long-running internet connectivity issued.

I considered taking BoltBus tonight (which was sold out) or Greyhound (which would have required a subway ride into Center City Philadelphia to catch), but went with the tried and (un)true MegaBus option. Have I finally learned my lesson? Or will I be like the poor woman that continues to return to her wife-beating husband? Forgive the analogy, but I cannot think of a more apt one.

And my story is not done: guess what wasn't waiting for me when I stepped off the bus? Does Chase Sapphire cover lost bus luggage? We'll soon find out...more on this tomorrow.


HoKo August 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Man, sorry to hear it but that was a hilarious blog post. Thoughts on a reader meet-up during one of the trips to DC?

azm August 31, 2012 at 12:27 am

Lost your luggage on a bus ride?! I've never heard of that, but sorry, that sucks. Whenever I travel between DC and NYC, I end up comparing Amtrak with the bus and the price differential is so large that most times I can't justify taking the train. But agree that if you're trying to work, Amtrak is the safer bet. It also feels more relaxed on the train because you can walk around, get coffee from the cafe, etc.

Beau August 31, 2012 at 12:53 am

Matthew- that really sucks about the Megabus. I take it occasionally, mostly for quick-ish connections MSP-CHI, but have had working wifi only once (out of 15+ trips) and it was extremely slow. The absolute only reason I take it is because it's 7 hours, including several overnights, city center to city center for $2-$20. The Amtrak is $75 at least, even with student discounts, and don't even get me started on American or United. However, Greyhound Express has started a Megabus-style (and price) overnight r/t or two that leaves CHI at midnight and arrives in time for an 8am meeting. Plus, the wifi works.

BR August 31, 2012 at 01:21 am

I too have made this same mistake as well with Megabus. I still take Megabus quite a bit, but only when I know I don't have any work to get done.

Will August 31, 2012 at 08:18 am

I've found the wifi on BoltBus to be very reliable on my trips between DC and New York. And their seats are just slightly more comfortable than Megabus.

monster August 31, 2012 at 08:27 am

Have you looked at taking the SEPTA train to Trenton and changing there for the NJ Transit train to NYC? I think the fare is $15.50 one way - so cheaper than your MegaBus ride. I don't know about WiFi however.

DanR August 31, 2012 at 10:31 am

I hate the boarding chaos that is Megabus, so I always take Wasington Deluxe or BoltBus for my DC - NYC trips unless I have enough Amtrak Guest Rewards points :) And Greyhound terminals are so depressing.

PolishKnight August 31, 2012 at 11:42 am

I'm surprised you didn't ask for a refund for your remaining trips. If the WIFI isn't working properly and you lost your baggage, you certainly could justify a reasonable request for them to fix the problems or provide a refund (just like an airline!) If not, take it up with Chase and I'm sure they'll back you up.

My wife and I love Amtrak but it's horrifically expensive.

Idea about bus (and train) baggage: I wonder if there are child-protective/baggage alarms you can buy that detect if your bags get more than a certain distance away from you and set off the alarm.

Sanjeev M August 31, 2012 at 01:20 pm

BoltBus is good, which is why its sold out. Megabus is mediocre but has plenty of frequencies to accommodate you if something goes wrong. If you're on a double decker, try the lower deck for more legroom.

For NYC-DC I would try some of the other but still high-quality lines. Examples are Tripper Bus, Hola Bus, Eastern (owned by Megabus but independent), Vamoose, DC2NY, and of course the renovated Greyhound/Peter Pan buses. Its sometimes not even worth booking in advance for these cause most of the time they offer tickets for $20 at the door space permitting. As smaller operations customer service can be better for most of these.

SAN Greg August 31, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Life is too short to endure traveling with such annoyances. Sorry about your luggage.

voice of reason September 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

It's not the end of the world if you can't find a bus ride, plane ride or train ride without internet? Some of you act like it's the worst thing in the world when there is no internet aboard a piece of transportation. It's a luxury and just be thankful that you have the opportunity to travel to all these places that you can afford to. And God forbid that you have another passenger sitting next to you. Must be the end of the world. rolleyes Just listen to sound like a child.

If a carrier advertises wi-fi as part of its service, then I expect wi-fi. Sorry--that is not acting like a child.

voice of reason September 4, 2012 at 02:48 am

Actually you DO sound like a child, mommy, mommy, there is no internet on the bus. Waaaaaaah! Yes, if there is no wifi, then ce la vie.

No, if there is no wifi, then au revoir, Megabus...

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