Dear PoPville – Horrible Megabus Experience

Photo by PoPville flickr user yostinator

“Dear PoPville,

My husband and I recently had a terrible experience with low-cost travel bus company Megabus, and I thought it might serve as a warning for the rest of PoPville.

In short, we were forced to travel on a malfunctioning bus in the middle of the night and then abandoned at a deserted bus terminal at 3 a.m., where there was no access to water, food, bathrooms, and any of the passengers could have been attacked or robbed. I sent the company two messages right away for a refund of the $140 we had to spend on a hotel that night and received only automated responses saying that I would receive a response within 48 hours. That time window has long passed, and I have heard nothing.

We were supposed to come back from Knoxville to DC. When we first got on the bus in Knoxville, the driver said that there was a problem with the bus and that we´d have to wait. When we finally did get on, we started out of Knoxville, and the bus stalled on the highway (middle of the night, pouring rain, semis speeding by) after only about 20 minutes of driving, and we sat in the bus on the side of the highway as the driver tried over and over to get the bus started. We started driving again, and the bus stalled again! Finally we made it to a truck stop, where we sat for 3 1/2 hours while the driver made (what turned out to be) empty promises of a mechanic coming, another bus coming, calling taxis to take us back, etc. At about 2:30am they announced that we´d be taken back to Knoxville on the same malfunctioning bus and dropped at the bus terminal. Since my husband and I were worried about stalling again on the highway and getting hit by a passing truck, we told the driver that we were going to call a taxi instead. The driver yelled at us to get off the bus in that case because he wanted to leave! So instead of getting off and being potentially stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, we stayed on and (thankfully uneventfully) went back to Knoxville.

In our case, we do not have family or friends in the area and were completely stranded when Megabus dumped us at the closed bus terminal. I can only imagine what would have happened if we had not had the extra money to be able to pay for a hotel room that night.”

Yikes. I’ve had good and bad experiences with a few services. Once I took a boltbus a couple of summers ago all the way from DC to NYC without any air conditioning. It was pretty rough. Perhaps it’s time for a final – which is the best intercity discount bus service poll.

57 Comment

  • bfinpetworth

    Wow, that sounds like a nightmare. I can’t comment on the bus services because I just stick with Amtrak to Philly or NYC. I don’t really trust those bus drivers. My partner took the Boltbus to NYC last year and it was ok for her, but she did get motion sickness. Amtrak.

    • Ditto. I do not trust the buses. No regulation, drivers often drive like maniacs, no regular inspection of buses. Really, think about it, for those cheap fares, something has to be cut, and safety is usually it. Amtrak is worth every penny.

      • Well, they cut overhead. Hence the no bus stations and overhead that comes along with said bus stations. I doubt the safety thing very much.

        I can say with almost 100% certainty that it is cheaper to have the bus running correctly than it is to deal with buses breaking down the inevitable expense that comes from a bus out of service/emergency repairs etc.

      • Actually, Bolt Bus is owned and run by Greyhound and is regulated the same as their other buses. Just different paint, different marketing strategy, and different drop off/pick up spots.

  • I sympathize, but the driver/company doesn’t have much control over a mechanical failure…

    Took the Chinatown Bus to NYC once – never again. Our young (20 something douche) Russian (judging by accent) driver was txting the entire first half of the trip. One of the passengers (let’s hear it for black women with attitude) actually organized a mutiny among the passengers at a rest-stop to put an end to that – seriously, she was ready to rip him a new one. The A/C was broken. The bathroom was downright vile…

    • Most break-downs I’ve experienced on discount buses have been due to PREVENTABLE maintenance issues, like lack of tune ups, calibrations, etc. They just run these buses back and forth with barely any time in between trips to refuel, much less carry out extensive maintenance.

      You’ll never hear a bus company admit a mistake was due to preventable maintenance EVER.

  • I’ve ridden Megabus a few times and the only real issue I’ve had was with them cancelling buses for no good reason (maybe because they break down elsewhere). The customer service is ATROCIOUS – I mean the worst of any company I’ve ever seen, ever. That, along with them moving the DC bus stop to the middle of ghettoville, have caused me to stop using them.

    • Really? Not sure I would consider North Capitol St and K St. NE to be “ghettoville”.

      • I would. Sure, it’s close to Union Station, but the immediate area is skeeeeetchy.

        • Right, but the fact that you consider it “ghettoville” makes you foolish. You realize that, right?

          • I wasn’t the one who called it ghettoville. Nevertheless, I would not feel safe waiting for a bus there, especially at night. Have you seen the characters loitering around?

        • Depends what direction you’re talking about. To union station? A bit. Going East? yeah, it can be pretty bad. The walk from the parking lot to Mt. Vernon Sq. metro isn’t sketchy at all though.

        • That area is hardly “sketchy”. I imagine Megabus will be looking for a new spot when Walmart opens nearby.

          I haven’t ridden Megabus but have family and friends who have and have generally had good experiences. The trips were between active hubs.

    • Not to condone the use of the term “ghettoville”, but you do realize that move was made by DC city government and not the bus company, right?

    • Apparently I live in ghettoville. Who knew? I never felt unsafe here. It’s not like it’s Columbia Heights.

      • I’ve heard more than one person say the area around the Greyhound station is the scariest area in DC. From what I’ve seen I’d have to agree. Probably the crime rates are lower than in places like Columbia Heights, but there are SO MANY people hanging around there that look seriously cracked out. It’s creepy as hell.

        • scariest area in DC? You have got to be kidding me. apparently you haven’t ventured into most of the city…

  • Yeah that sucks, but I have been screwed by many companies from all forms of transportation.

    It just happens.

    And I mean how much were the tickets — $4?

    I use Megabus all the time myself and feel that I get what I pay for.

    Will try bolt next but they always seem more expensive.

  • I’ve taken either Bolt or Washington Deluxe every other weekend to New York for about a year now and I’ve never had a problem. Sure, sometimes the bus is an hour or two late, but that’s the worst it’s been. The drivers are always courteous and haven’t seemed like maniacs on the road.
    I took Megabus once and it was more of a hassle, since they meet in the middle of a parking lot instead of Union Station, and they also stopped in Baltimore without telling us.

  • I have had Megabus break down on me and my friends a few times. Bolt is by far the best (I’ve tried all to NYC except Chinatown because I don’t have a death wish).

    One time on Megabus I was coming back from NYC and ppl in the back could smell smoke. One guy goes to the front to tell the driver and he returns with wide eyes. “Driver said ‘yeah. All I can see in my rear view mirror is smoke for the past 10 minutes'”. We pulled over on 95 at 11pm and smoke pours into the compartment. We stood on the side of the road for about 30 minutes and then the driver goes “well, another bus will take 3 hours to get here so lets see how far we can get.” We reboard and drive an hour to DC uneventful, but had to breathe through our shirts due to the smell and we were only doing about 40mph. Never again.

  • vamus bus is the way to go.

    • I used to like Vamoose despite the fact they left from places inconvenient to me, like Rosslyn and Bethesda. What I loved was that you could reserve a spot but didn’t have to pay until you were on the bus and you could change your bus time without any penalty. They have eliminated both features and I don’t use them anymore. I will say that the bus experience itself was always quite good. Cleaner and more efficient than most of the others.

      • I also like Vamoose. They have great customer service and always reliable. But you’re incorrect on one detail. They DO allow you to change your ticket between schedules without penalty. I’ve done it numerous times I was never charged. I would recommend Bolt for those that need to travel into the district.

    • I second Vamoose. Their “Gold” bus that leaves once a day is definitely worth $50. You get a airline business-class sized seat, a newspaper and bottled water. Also, there are only ~30 passengers on the bus (2+1 seating) so it feels really spacious unlike many bus lines that shoehorn as many seats in as is legal. They leave from Bethesda and Rosslyn and run express to NYC. Too bad there’s only one gold bus round-trip per day. I would think that there would be a larger market for buses that offer a better service (and maintenance) than the bare-bones Megabuses of the world between DC and NYC, considering the $49 e/w trip that Amtrak sometimes advertises only applies to a few slower or early/late trains and has to be booked 2 weeks in advance.

  • My husband and I recently [traveled the cheapest way possible], and I thought it might serve as a warning for the rest of PoPville [that you get what you pay for and that buses can occasionally have mechanical issues out of control of the company].

    There. Fixed that for you.

    • bfinpetworth

      Well that was kind of assinine. “What [she] paid for” was a bus trip to DC on a reasonably maintained bus. Sounds like this one was troubled from the start and should have never left Knoxville, and once it broke down, the company should have had a replacement bus there pronto. So no, she did not get what she paid for.

      • Maybe the point is that a company that offers bus seats for $1.50 just might be cutting expenses somewhere – perhaps a bus (or ten) is behind in maintenance; maybe there is not a fleet of backup buses at the ready to be deployed when a regular bus breaks down. No, she did not get what she paid for. But it’s not a big shock that when something went wrong, the situation was not handled as well as it would have been had she been using a national carrier.
        Having said that, the responses to this thread suggest that this company is not inherently unreliable – there are as many good experiences as bad. She just happened to have one of the bad experiences. Not an excuse or a justification. Just a matter of providing perspective

    • I don’t see your point. just because taking a bus is cheaper than other ways one could travel, doesn’t mean it’s a ridiculous expectation to be provided with what you pay for: a safe (if uncomfortable and lengthy) trip to your destination. And if the occasional mechanical issue does come up, is it not a fair expectation that the bus company make sure everyone is set/safe till an alternative vehicle arrives? or at the very least refunded for their trip? Minimal customer service is not reserved only to the more fortunate ones who can afford the train/airfare.

    • that mean for you.. you pay $30 in a low cost flight … as spirit air … mean as you said… your flight should crush??

      So, in The United States of America no one company have regulation from the State, Local government or any other institution for a safe service??

      be constructive…

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a website where you can check the safety ratings for bus companies. It’s a fairly new resource so it’s not perfect but it’s a good start.

    Here’s the information for MegaBus:

    • I had no idea that website existed, thanks for sharing! What I’m wondering is, are these discount bus lines really that much better/cheaper than Greyhound?

    • I was having a devil of a time trying to get the D.C.-area bus companies to come up in my search results.

      Were you able to get the safety ratings for any of the other big D.C. operators (Bolt Bus, Washington Deluxe, NY2DC, Vamoose, etc.?

  • so goes the old adage, you get what you pay for

  • Megabus is definitely up there with Fung Wah in terms of crappy buses. I can’t remember the last time I had a Megabus that was on-time or didn’t break down mid-trip.

    Honestly, I’ve given up on getting ANYTHING from Megabus. Time after time I’ve tried getting refunds, etc but no dice. If you really wanted to rattle some cages, you could just file a complaint with the BBB.

  • I’ve traveled on most of the buses from dc to ny(megabus, bolt, chinatown, washington deluxe) I’ve had issues with all of them except washington deluxe. (Which is funny because they are the cheapest) they always arrived on time and showed up on time. Mega and bolt are almost always late. Besides the fact that mega has had a few buses get in trouble for drunk driving. No thanks.

  • I’ve had decent experiences on Vamoose as have a few friends.

  • I am probably in the minority but I am originally from Pittsburgh and I’m pretty sure Mega is the only one that runs service there. Having said that, the bus service (drivers included) have always been great and on time the many times I have taken it. I wonder if it has something to do with the region because I know there are regional drivers (e.g. certain drivers only service certain cities)

  • I am really surprised by the negative experiences with Megabus. I have taken it to Pittsburgh a few times and my sister-in-law came down from Pittsburgh twice. Neither of us had any problems and actually arrived to our destinations early most times.

  • Mega is owned by Stagecoah, a large UK-based transportation company. So they’re not exactly fly by night and they should be able to do decent maintenance, provide good customer service etc.

    Here’s the email for the parent company’s Director of Corporate Communications, Steven Stewart: [email protected]

    I’d send him a polite email w/ an attached description of your problems, say that Customer Service has been no help and ask him to forward it to the right person in the U.S. Can’t hurt.

  • I’ve taken MegaBus several times to NYC and once to Charlotte with no trouble. My mom has done it a bunch of times back and forth from Charlotte (she knows the driver for her route now!) with no problem.

    That said, that safety link scared me and I will not be able to let her do that again. O_O

  • Ugh!

    Megabus is owned by Stagecoach Group, PLC, a UK-based organization. If I were you I’d forward copies of the past two notes you submitted to their customer service, along with a new letter addressed to their Chief Executive, Sir Brian Souter, and explain your experience and request again for your out of pocket expenses to Stagecoach Group, PLC, 10 Dunkeld Rd, Perth, PH1 5TW, United Kingdom. Even if Sir Brian doesn’t see it, it should bring it before some eyes that are more motivated to help you.

    All of this is assuming there isn’t some fine print somewhere that says these costs aren’t covered in the event of weather or mechanical difficulties. I know airlines don’t cover weather related delays/cancellations but they do for mechanical, not sure about the bus.

  • Thought I’d share one positive story in the midst of all the Megabus woes.

    Took the Megabus last October from Philly to Syracuse. Our driver was a super perky, tiny 20-something woman. On the highway we passed a truck on fire (everyone had evacuated the vehicle safely already). Our driver pulled over, whipped out a fire extinguisher, put the flames out all by herself, got back on the bus, and got us to Syracuse ON TIME. Without driving like a maniac.

    Yes, Megabus definitely has some drivers who should not be behind the wheel. But they also have some stellar ones like this woman. Keep your hopes up!

  • The DC 2 NY bus is the way to go if you have to take a bus to NYC and back.

  • This sounds awful. But I really don’t understand why anybody ever gets into disputes with travel companies about “refunds” for faulty service anymore. If you just put the tickets on a credit card, your life becomes easy. You ask for a refund from the business, and if you don’t get it, you just don’t pay the charge on your credit card bill and fill out a form with the credit card company indicating that the business failed to provide services rendered.

    I did this recently with a United Airlines flight that was canceled that cost hundreds of dollars and had no problem once I stopped dicking around with United and took it up with the credit card company. This is the best tool you have as a consumer.

    • Interesting option. I would think that this route is not going to be available for merely “faulty” service; it has to be so deficient as to amount to a lack of service. You’re not going to be able to get a charge for a restaurant meal refunded just because the food was bad.

    • I had a similar experience with Amtrak. The train wasn’t cancelled, but the service was so poor I called it into AmEx saying that I didn’t feel that I got the service I paid for. I got $150 in vouchers for it.

      Sometimes it’s not just having a sense of entitlement, but standing up and telling a company to stop abusing it’s customers. (Train tickets are outrageous anyways!)

      Also, for a bad meal, that’s ridiculous. You really to have to put it in the perspective of you get what you pay for.

  • I’ve used the megabus to get from DC to NY at least 50 times and only had a problem three times. If you book far enough in advance it is cheap enough that complaining is pretty unreasonable.

    Greyhound is reliable too but attracts a different clientele and you are more likely to have people talking for the entire trip, even those that leave at night. Buying online was significantly cheaper, or at least it was last year.

    Vamoose is better than either of those services but is pretty expensive for what they offer you.

  • I always use the Vamoose bus. They are great!

  • I’m pretty familiar with all the DC-NY bus companies, and I’d have to say DC2NY is my favorite for consistency. Then BoltBus, and I’ll only travel on Megabus as a last resort after two terrible experience. DC2NY is a few dollars more expensive, but I’ve never had a bad experience–always on time, plugs for my phone, nice people, and usually less crowded.

    However, traveling from DC to NY on Boltbus is much easier than traveling from NY to DC. The NY stop is such a clusterfuck.

  • Took MegaBus last weekend from DC to Richmond for my first time. Yes it was cheap and yes I didn’t have to drive, but holy moly, I wish I had just drove myself! Our bus was an hour late so we waited over an hour on the hot parking lot, due to not enough room under the pop-up tents… including a pregnant lady!?!? It was the day that the heat index was 114*. Finally when we got on the bus we found that the air conditioning wasn’t really working.
    $21 to Richmond via MegaBus = not worth the hassle!

  • I’ve taken buses btw. NYC and DC for the past 8 years… First, the chinatown buses when they were tiny and $10 roundtrip… it was great! I’ve taken every bus company and they all have pros and cons. The only company I haven’t had problems with yet (knock on wood) is Wash. Deluxe. Other than that I’ve had good and bad experiences with all of them. I don’t use Megabus nor Bolt Bus anymore since they dont’ stop downtown and the hike to the metro is long from where I am at. I use chinatown buses or wash deluxe because for the convenience, closeness to the train. I haven’t had bad experiences with Chinatown buses in 3 years. By the way, I don’t get why people like Bolt Bus so much, it’s always too full…

  • I’ve had hit or miss experiences with Megabus. On a trip up to NY, our driver pulled over at a gas station in Jersey (about 30 minutes from NYC) because he had hit his 10 hour mark for the day and couldn’t drive any further (he claimed this this was per safety regulation).

    It wouldn’t have been too bad if there had been coordination and a new driver was waiting (we were late because of extreme traffic in DC/Baltimore area, so not like it should have been a surprise to him that we would be late to NY). BUT – it seems that he didn’t call until we pulled over, so we had to sit at a gas station waiting for a new driver for an hour. He also did virtually nothing to explain the situation to customers – no PA announcement or anything; we only got this information because we repeatedly asked. All that said, I paid $1 for the ticket so what was I going to do ask for a refund?

    The flip side is that on the return trip from NY to DC, our driver couldn’t have been nicer and it was smooth sailing. I guess with these services you have to make peace with the fact that it will usually work smoothly, but definitely might not…

Comments are closed.