Cutting your travel carbon footprint in the Big Blue Bus for as low as $1
By Teresa McUsic
Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA that began service here in June, has doubled its routes from seven to 14 cities from DFW, including Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and New York City. The inter-city bus system has a fleet of bright blue, double decker bus that leaves dozens of times daily from a secured parking lot just south of I-30 in Grand Prairie.
And the promotional $1 fares are still very much around as the environmentally-friendly bus system continues to expand in Texas. For example, a Megabus fare to Houston one week in advance can run as low as $5 one way. A similar trip a month later can cost as little as $1. The tickets, which can be purchased online at www.megabus.com or by calling their toll-free phone number (877-462-6342), also have a 50 cent fee per trip.
The new inner-city bus system can play a large part in helping to reduce greenhouse gases in the state. Megabus has received a “Green Coach Passenger Miles” certification for meeting or exceeding an average of 148 passenger miles per gallon and a “Green Coach Clean Engine Technology” certification for running EPA compliant engines. “The certification decals signify to our customers that they are positively impacting the environment by taking megabus.com instead of driving or using other forms of intercity transportation,” Dale Moser, president and COO of the company.
The fleet of 81-passenger, double-decker buses receive 305 passenger miles per gallon of fuel. Additionally, two double-decker buses transport nearly as many passengers as three standard passenger coaches, reducing carbon emissions and fuel usage by one engine. The double-decker buses are also equipped with SmarTire to aid the driver and maintenance crew in sustaining correct tire pressure, increasing fuel economy and reducing emissions.
Megabus management said it monitors the idling time of the double-decker buses to help reduce carbon emissions. Using a GPS system, they can remotely shut down the engine, reducing idling time by 57 percent in the last year. The fleet of double-decker buses was recently runner-up in BusRide Magazine’s “How Green is Your Fleet” contest.
In addition to the convenience of direct routes, Megabus promotes vehicles with bigger seats and more leg room than regular buses, and free wi-fi and power outlets at each seat. The latter two features are part of what is driving a resurgence in express bus travel across the U.S., said Joseph P. Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development and a professor at DePaul University in Chicago.
After a decline of more than 40 years, intercity bus departures have been growing 5-10 percent a year since 2006, when Megabus began, he said. Megabus said it has transported more than 20 million customers since it began and now has almost 100 express routes around the country. A 2011 study by Schwieterman showed that three out of four passengers on the new intercity express bus systems were under age 35 and almost all used electronic devices en route.
“Young people don’t visualize auto mobility as a status symbol,” he said. “They want to use their electronic devices and get from point A to point B at a low cost. They don’t think twice about getting on a bus.”
Texas should be a good market for the express bus systems, Schwieterman said. “I think it’s going to do well,” he said. “It’s fueled by oil at $90 a barrel and the distances in the state are good for 4-5 hour travel, which is a typical route for these buses. In Texas, it will be less of a mass transit operation where people take public transportation to get to the bus and more of a suburban style operation with parking lots for passengers.”
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Teresa McUsic is an Arlington-based writer focused on consumer, environmental and health issues for a number of local and national publications. Her column, The Savvy Consumer, appears in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at TMcUsic@aol.com .