It’s like a normal bus, but more mega.
Last week, Chicago-based Megabus announced it is bringing its outsized transportation to Music City.
For as low as $1 — if booked far enough in advance — Nashvillians are promised nonstop service to either Chattanooga or Atlanta on big blue double-deckers, complete with free Wi-Fi and power outlets in every seat, so the trip will not have to interrupt your quest to beat the next level of Angry Birds.
Megabus is pushing into the South partly as a reaction to Greyhound offering express city-to-city service across Dixieland.
Outflanking the Old Grey Pup, Megabus is offering its Nashville-to-Atlanta express on the cheap while Greyhound drags its feet.
Megabus’ business model is a bit of a dark art. It’s part economy of scale: “Look — it’s a giant bus! We can cram a jazillion people in here!.” It’s part low overhead: no terminals — the Nashville version will pick up in front of the East Nashville Ramada and downtown at Fifth and Commerce. And those $1 rates? Well, they jump to $30 for the procrastinating sort who wakes up on a Tuesday and says “Gee, I’d love to go to Atlanta today!”
Megabus’ model also rejects the cliches of bus-riding. There’s no depressing terminal and all transactions are done online — appealing to a certain clientele. It encourages laptop use. All the songs about riding on inter-city buses are in a minor key for a reason. Megabus wants to change that tune. Riding on the bus is hip and fun! Like a cool indie pop song that’s really great, but you’ve probably never heard of it.
Megabus also knows how to pump up demand. Ahead of its Nov. 15 launch, the company is giving away 10,000 free tickets — no doubt hoping the loss-leader leads to profits down the road as Nashville appetites for Orange Dreams from the Varsity are whetted to the point of insatiability or that just one look into the cute faces of the otters at the Tennessee Aquarium will never be enough.
It’s nice, of course, to have a transportation alternative. Atlanta is close enough that flying isn’t worth it and driving yourself is a chore. Until the time high-speed rail moves from pipe dream to plausibility, the bus is the best of both worlds: someone else does the heavy lifting as in air travel, but there’s no invasive and embarrassing body scans. You can keep your shoes on and everything.
And Megabus encourages use of electronic devices during travel, rather than inexplicably mandating a power down.