Well, we did it! We took our maiden voyage aboard the soon-to-be-if-not-already-infamous MegaBus. For those who haven’t heard of it, the MegaBus is a super cheap coach service that operates primarily in the Northeast. Last November, they added a Knoxville-to-Washington D.C. route. As of right now, they depart twice a day (mid morning & late evening) with roughly 9 hours of scheduled travel. From D.C., there are hourly departures to a wide variety of other major cities including a 4 1/2 hour route to New York.
Megabus advertises one way fares for as low as $1. As one might suspect that does not reflect the average price, though they still offer a pretty good deal. We paid right at $100 for four round-trip tickets. I booked our tickets less than 2 weeks from our departure. Initially, I made an error and was happy to find that they only charged me 50 cents to change it. We opted to travel overnight starting on a Tuesday evening and return during the day trip on Friday.
The Ride to D.C.
Tuesday night, our bus arrived at the KAT station on time and loaded directly on E. Church Street catty-corner from the Knoxville Coliseum. The driver was no-nonsense. The bus was nice enough. The guys enjoyed the free Wi-Fi and Inch & I sat at the back of the bus near the bathroom which gave us a little more leg room. Odor was not a problem. The other passengers appeared to be mostly families or college students. Capacity was probably about half until we picked up more folks in Christiansburg, WV.
I had hoped that we would get some good sleep to make the most of our first full day in D.C. And while Inch managed to get 6 solid hours of sleep, I wasn’t so fortunate. In the future, if we take another overnight trip, I’m going to jockey for the very back seats which had much more room.
About halfway through our trip, I noticed that the bus sounded different and that we seemed to be going slower than normal. Sure enough, the bus had some mechanical problems. We drove at a speed of less than 45mph for about 2 hours until we met up with another bus and changed over.
We arrived Wednesday morning only a couple of hours late around 10:00a.m. The delay was actually to our advantage because, had we arrived on time, we would have encountered peak rush hour traffic as well as peak metro fares.
According to the Megabus website, the drop off/pick up point in D.C., which is just a large parking lot, is a temporary location. It seemed to be in a nice part of downtown and was convenient to the metro system. We walked ½ mile down –N. Capitol Street– in the direction of the Capitol, turned left onto G St NE and arrived at Union Station.
The Return Trip
We made it to the pickup point Friday morning without incident. Unfortunately, our bus did not. It was delayed by an hour and no explanation was offered. It would have been more tolerable if it weren’t so hot (it was over 95 degrees) during our wait on a blacktop parking lot with no shade.
I thought I’d remembered providing my cell number when I booked the reservation to receive alerts for such problems, but received no call or message. I later found that they had sent me a few emails about the delay, though they provided no real information.
Once the bus arrived, we loaded up and we were on our way. We stopped 3 times: the first time after 2 hours on the road at a rest stop, the second at Christiansburg to unload some passengers and the 3rd time for dinner about 3 hours out from Knoxville. We arrived in Knoxville within an hour of our scheduled time.
The Big Question
Would we do it again? With the adage in mind that you get what you pay for, I fully expected to encounter some problems on our trip. However, the issues we experienced were mitigated by the money we saved, our flexibility, the convenience factor, and the fact that we felt safe. We’ll definitely ride the Megabus again and would recommend it to others.