Although she lived in the tiny farming town of Itasca, south of Fort Worth, she could travel to Dallas or other larger towns in northern Texas anytime to shop or take care of other business.
How did she accomplish this miracle without a car or even a driver’s license? By taking the extensive electric interurban railway system that blanketed the region at the time.
It’s long gone, though; passenger train travel in this part of the US is a distant memory because freight traffic has priority on most rail corridors. That means that passenger trains are often delayed, usually without notice, and there aren’t that many runs offered through the day. No one wants to deal with a transport option that isn’t convenient or reliable.
Until this summer, I was resigned to the reality that to get to Dallas or anywhere else in the south central US, I’d have to fly or drive a car. That finally changed when Megabus launched in Texas in June, and began running their distinctive double-decker blue buses between Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin plus Norman, OK, Little Rock, AR, Memphis, TN and New Orleans, LA.
The appeal of Midwest-based Megabus is their fleet of new buses (with power plugs and WiFi throughout,) lots of arrival/departure times, straightforward express service and crazy affordable rates, including promotional rates of $1 – $5 per trip.
You have to book early and online to get the promo rates, but when I checked the cost of taking the same bus this afternoon, as I write this, it’s all of $9.00 plus tax.
I rode Megabus from Austin to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as part of a mildly insane Megabus/Heartland Flyer train/Greyhound/Southwest Airlines “Planes, Trains and Buses” experimental trip to and from Tulsa, Oklahoma for a meeting.
How Was the Megabus Experience?
Buying a ticket online at megabus.com was straightforward and simple. I paid a total of $5.50 including tax for my ticket from Austin to Dallas/Fort Worth.
The Megabus sign was pretty small at the Austin pickup area, but I found it; many locations use a curbside area or parking lot rather than bus terminals, which saves on the company’s overhead costs. The website also gives specific bus stop location information.
There was a uniformed Megabus organizer person on the spot that morning in Austin, ready to check people in when the bus arrived. I turned in my small carry-on suitcase to a luggage handler, climbed aboard and went up a small internal circular staircase to the upper level. There were only about 10 other people on the bus with me, but the layout was pretty spacious so it looked like it would be comfortable even when full.
The bus air-conditioning system handled near-100deg F temperatures, even on the upper level with lots of window space.
Each seat set has power plugs, which is great, and every bus has free WiFi, which is great in theory but it never worked consistently for me (later in my trip I rode Greyhound buses, which also have plugs at each seat, and their WiFi did work.) Also, if you want to use a laptop, grab one of the seats next to the small tables on the lower level. There are no seat-back tray tables, so your laptop will have to go on your lap or propped onto something.
The onboard bathroom was quite compact, but clean and not at all smelly. It’s a liquid latrine sort of setup, so you don’t flush, but apparently people mistake the Emergency Stop button for a flush button a lot, as indicated by the explanatory little sign.
The bus left on time and arrived a little early. The major drawback to the trip was that the “Dallas/Fort Worth” pickup/dropoff station is actually a small shared Coach USA terminal in Grand Prairie, Texas, in between Dallas and Fort Worth. If you know the DFW Metroplex, you know that this is not convenient to either major city. Plans are afoot to move the Megabus pickup/dropoff to downtown Dallas soon. Still, since I only paid $5 for my bus ticket for a 3.5 hour trip, a short taxi ride to somewhere wouldn’t be too painful.
Word to the wise – know exactly where your pickup and dropff points are and plan accordingly.
Would I ride Megabus again? You bet I would! It would be great to have a passenger rail network return to the south central US, but until that day comes, I’m happy with a clean, fast, modern bus system.
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