Megabus.com, an express bus company that offers city-to-city service with fares starting as low as $1, is expanding into California, including service for San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco.
The company hopes to tap into angst over high gasoline prices, the West Coast proclivity toward a green lifestyle and rising interest among young people to use mass transit.
"We are providing state-of-the-art double-decker buses, with Wi-Fi on board, electric outlets, heating, air conditioning," said Mike Alvich, vice president of the New York-based company. The Wi-Fi access is a way for Megabus to cater to younger professionals who might want to travel within California yet don't want to drive and like to stay connected through their social networks.
Initial routes will connect San Jose with Los Angeles, Oakland with Los Angeles, San Francisco with Los Angeles and Sacramento with the Reno-Sparks metro area in Nevada. In addition, the company will link Los Angeles with Las Vegas.
While Megabus offers fares as low as $1, most seats are priced from $5 to $9, and some are higher, depending on availability.
"The public is clamoring for lower priced options," said Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chicago-based DePaul University's Chaddick Institute and a professor and transportation expert."They gradually raise their fares, but they still undercut Amtrak by a large margin. They always are under the
Megabus launched its service in the United States on the East Coast in 2006. It now has 22 million passengers. During its fiscal year that ended in April, it generated $160 million in revenue, up 28 percent from the prior fiscal year, Alvich said, adding that the privately held company is profitable.
The parent company of Megabus, Coach USA, now serves the New York City area, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston and Dallas.
Potential customers can book California bus trips starting Wednesday. The first trips begin on Dec. 12, Alvich said.
As a promotion, the company will offer $1 trips for all seats and all trips in California during its first week of service. Buses will depart and arrive at these locations: The Diridon transit station at 65 Cahill St. in San Jose, the West Oakland BART station, 1451 7th Street in Oakland, and the Caltrain station in San Francisco at 700 4th St. Schedules can be found on the company's website at www.megabus.com.
"We think now is the time to expand to California," Alvich said. "But there are no guarantees here. We are not subsidized. We are rolling the dice."
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.