During a time of high gasoline prices and limited options for long-distance transportation, residents of major Midwestern cities will benefit from a new line of buses. Megabus.com, an express bus service, will connect eight Midwest cities to Chicago for as little as $1 each way. This new option will not only provide travelers with a cheaper and quicker alternative to current transportation methods but also hopefully inspire an expansion of long-distance public transportation.
Megabus is a welcome addition to the sparse pickings any cross-country travelers has when making travel plans and will alleviate many of the inconveniences associated with travel. The buses, set to launch this week, will rely on consumer interest and high-volume sales to make a profit despite cheap ticket prices. Currently, similar public transportation providers fall short of catering to traveler’s needs and wallets. Greyhound bus lines and Amtrak trains, the most popular modes of public ground transportation across the Midwest, are often slow and can run a high bill depending on season. Megabus opens the door to making more efficient services available by offering Greyhound real competition and making bus travel more popular. Initial success could allow it to expand beyond its Chicago routes to other less-traveled locations.
However, Megabus is not the solution to the country’s transportation troubles. President Bush, for instance, slashed federal funding to Amtrak last year, leaving states responsible for subsidizing train services. These cuts have limited services and raised prices. Compared with buses, trains have the capability to carry more people and offer faster, more reliable service for travelers in addition to being more environmentally friendly. The federal government has failed to provide the capital needed to jumpstart the investment in passenger trains needed to reduce dependence on cars and planes for long-distance travel. Other nations have built extensive high-speed rail systems, and with rising fuel prices and growing environmental concerns, the United States has no excuse for remaining content with the status quo.
Megabus should serve as a wake-up call to Washington that investing in a cheaper and more efficient public transportation option for travelers is a necessary and worthwhile development. Federal subsidies or tax breaks may be necessary to expand bus and train offerings as affordable alternatives to driving long distances. With political discourse increasingly focused on environmental concerns and oil prices, expanding the reach and popularity of public transportation would benefit the entire country. Megabus may not only save travelers money, but it could end up reminding the nation that cars and planes aren’t the only way to cross the country.