Escaping for the weekend just became as cheap as buying a bottle of soda from a vending machine.

Mike Hulsebus
Megabus.com Operations Manager Matt Eggert during a press conference about the launch of a new bus service between Ann Arbor and Chicago. (Jeremy Cho/ Daily)

Megabus.com will start offering $1 rides from Ann Arbor to Chicago on April 2.

Tickets will cost as little as $1 each way depending on when passengers buy the tickets and what day they intend to travel. The company only books trips 45 days in advance.

If students buy their tickets closer to the date of the trip, though, tickets will likely cost more – sometimes $30 or more each way.

Matt Eggert, the company’s operations manager, said the trips will appeal to students because they’re cheap and convenient. Unlike rival companies like Greyhound, Megabus.com only offers express trips with no stops.

“It’s a great thing for a college town,” he said.

Eggert said the company can afford to charge so little because their low prices attract many customers and fill buses to capacity. He said he expects the trend to continue in Ann Arbor. Buses already run in 51 cities in England, Wales and Scotland. The company launched its North American service in Chicago in April 2006.

Buses from Ann Arbor will only travel to the Megabus.com hub in Chicago. Students can transfer buses to other cities from there, though.

The company services seven midwestern states and hopes to expand in the future, Eggert said. It plans to launch in four other cities on April 2, including on the campus of Ohio State University.

LSA freshman Andrew Caponi, who grew up in Chicago, said he’s interested in the bus service because he doesn’t own a car. Caponi has relied on his parents to drive him home and back during breaks.

The company’s website says the trip to Chicago will take four hours and 40 minutes. The buses, which hold 56 passengers, will leave from the South State Street Commuter Park and Ride – which is south of the athletic campus near the University’s tennis center – at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.

The University is working with Megabus.com to promote the new transportation option on campus.

“It’s nice to add another tool to the toolbox,” said Diane Brown, a spokeswoman for the University’s facilities and operations.

The University will link to Megabus.com on its website.

The new bus service will compete with long-standing ground transportation rivals like Greyhound and Amtrak.

Greyhound claims not to be phased by the competition, though.

“As the largest intercity bus company in the country, we face all forms of competition,” said Anna Folmnsbee, a spokeswoman for the company. “We welcome competition.”

She said Megabus.com might introduce more people to bus transportation and increase Greyhound’s customer base.

She said Greyhound offers amenities that Megabus.com does not, though, like terminals. Amtrak and Greyhound also offer more departure times, advance booking and day-of-travel ticket purchasing. But each company’s rides usually include stops — which increase travel time.

Plus, they cost more.

Other discount bus services have come under scrutiny for safety hazards. They have been accused of poor maintenance and hiring disreputable drivers. The companies have been accused of cutting corners to keep fares low.

Eggert dismissed such concerns about Megabus.com. He said the company’s bus inspections keep buses in good conditions and proper working order.

– Joey Goldshlack contributed to this report.

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