Megabus to launch express bus service in Atlanta

Express bus operator Megabus plans to launch a hub in Atlanta with routes to 11 cities across the Southeast.

Chicago-based Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA, has been in operation since 2006 and has gained a following in the Northeast and Midwest.

Starting Nov. 16, it plans to begin daily departures from a curbside bus stop at the Civic Center MARTA station in downtown Atlanta to Birmingham, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Gainesville, Fla., Jacksonville, Knoxville, Memphis, Mobile, Montgomery, Nashville and Orlando.

The company, like other new-fangled express bus operations, offers free Wi-Fi, electrical plug-ins and some fares as low as $1. Fares issued closer to the departure date will go up to about $27 to $30 each way on routes from Atlanta, according to Megabus' U.S. director Edward Hodgson.

Megabus said it will offer 10,000 free seats on the new routes, plus a 50 cent booking fee, for travel between Nov. 16 and Dec. 16, for bookings with the code ATL10K.

Megabus president Dale Moser said Atlanta is a good market for the bus service as a large destination hub city. He said people in Atlanta who have tried Megabus in other parts of the country or have family and friends who have used it have "been tweeting us and blogging us for some time now wondering when we were coming there."

The service is popular among young professionals, 30- to 55-year old women and retirees, he said.

"This is giving them a much more affordable alternative to driving," Moser said. "People are willing to go eight hours on a bus to go someplace for an affordable price."

The firm will go up against recently-launched Greyhound Express service, which goes to nine cities from Atlanta with plans to add two more markets next week.

Megabus estimates it will transport about 400,000 visitors to Atlanta a year, worth about $20 million to the regional economy.

Not all of Megabus' launches have been successful. The company launched service on the West Coast in 2007 but discontinued the service in 2008.