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MegaBus joins carriers offering cheap NYC trips

Coach USA-backed unit plans to begin service on May 30

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Nicole C. Wong
Globe Staff / March 20, 2008

If you can't snag one of BoltBus's scarce $1 bus tickets between Boston and New York, you may soon have another option - MegaBus.

A subsidiary of Coach USA Inc., MegaBus said yesterday that it, too, will launch low-cost daily service on the super-competitive route, a week after BoltBus said it would roll out bargain-priced service between the two cities.

MegaBus said it will offer at least one seat for $1 per bus, and perhaps more on trips departing on certain days and at certain times. Prices for the remaining seats will rise as the departure date gets closer and seats get snapped up, but won't go above $14. Tickets are to go on sale Tuesday at megabus.com for service scheduled to begin May 30.

BoltBus, a Greyhound Lines Inc. operation, will start selling tickets at boltbus.com within the next two weeks for service starting next month. BoltBus also said it will offer at least one seat per bus for $1, but hasn't revealed the rest of the pricing yet. If the pricing mirrors its New York-to-Washington, D.C., route, it won't charge more than $25 a seat.

The two new contenders are scrambling to profit from this Northeast passageway that is popular among business people, students, and tourists. The bus operators are trying to distinguish themselves with pricing and amenities.

BoltBus last week said it will not only offer buck-bargains but also that its motor coaches will be outfitted with wireless Internet access and electrical outlets - aiding the productivity or easing the boredom of passengers who want to use laptops and iPods.

"We believe we're putting a different, new product on the market that has a lot to offer," said Greyhound spokesman Dustin Clark. "As far as how successful it will be, we'll see when the service starts. At that point, we'll do consumer research."

MegaBus also will offer free Wi-Fi but not electrical outlets, said chief operating officer Dale Moser. Passengers on its 22 daily buses between Boston and New York also will be able to watch a movie shown on eight video screens in each bus.

Technological amenities are offered on LimoLiner's motor coaches, which seat half as many passengers in leather chairs sporting seat-back entertainment systems playing a movie and two satellite-TV news channels. Travelers pay $89 a seat and enjoy a meal, beverages, and snacks served by an on-board attendant.

BoltBus and MegaBus could lure some LimoLiner passengers away with their cheaper opportunity to plug in, but Peter Pescatore, chief executive of LimoLiner, said, "We don't think it's going to affect us to a great degree. We have a solid repeat-customer foundation that likes being treated civilly."

Both MegaBus and BoltBus will stop at the South Station bus terminal, where Fung Wah Bus Transportation Inc., Lucky River Transportation Inc., and Peter Pan Bus Lines - which is operated in conjunction with Greyhound - offer a bare-bones trip for $15 to $30 a seat. Fung Wah's name is widely recognized in this fierce battle of the buses because it both pioneered this low-priced route and ran into safety problems in the past few years. Competitors have been eager to step in, but new ones recently have been blocked because none of the 29 gates in the South Station bus terminal is available to lease.

BoltBus will use some of Greyhound's gates. MegaBus is subcontracting with Dattco, which already leases Gate 12. MegaBus will pay Dattco employees to drive Dattco buses to and from New York - although it hasn't received the proper approval to do so, South Station's property manager, Michael Brennan, said late yesterday.

"They do nothing," he said, "until they come through us."

Paul Makishima of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Nicole C. Wong can be reached at nwong@globe.com.

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