Smile Politely

Traveling the Big Ten on Megabus

Signs. Omens. Portents.

I’m not much of a Believer, but I should have known Lady Luck was frowning when, on my way to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday, I passed by a derelict Megabus. It’s right front tire was completely gone.

The only thing I’ll say about the Michigan BTT game — after waiting a few days to see whether it still felt true — is that it’s the most disappointing Illini loss since Austin Peay. So much was riding on the game, and Illinois blew it. Kendrick Nunn was right there in the corner, right where he always buries that three. I was 12 feet from him. He never got the ball. Under 40 seconds left with the lead and the ball. You win, you’re in the NCAA. You lose, and someone has to get last minute airfare to Boston.

I rode the Megabus a lot this year, stretching Smile Politely’s skeletal travel budget as far as possible. I got a lot of $1 fares. I experienced numerous cancellations. Not a single bus was on time, ever.

So I have mixed views about the Megabus. It’s cheap. Sometimes the heat works. Sometimes the wi-fi works. Sometimes you get two or four seats to yourself, can stretch out, and enjoy the ride.

But if you live in Champaign-Urbana, like I do, Megabus may no longer be an option for you.

On February 27th, Megabus released a new batch of dates for reservations, accepting bookings through May 27th. But Champaign’s trips were not extended past the previous reservation period, April 8th.

Moreover, the times of existing reservations were changed. The southbound (Chicago to Memphis bus) now arrives/leaves Champaign at 1 a.m. rather than 11:45 p.m.

The northbound bus arrives/leaves at 4:15 a.m. rather than 6:30 a.m.

Illinois Terminal is not open between midnight and 5 a.m., so if you have a Megabus reservation through April 8th, you’ll be standing in the cold and dark. The people already aboard will not be happy to see you, or share their seats.

Greyhound Express and Amtrak remain in competition for your Champaign-to-Chicago travel needs, so perhaps fares won’t jump following Megabus’ departure from the market. And perhaps Megabus will return once it figures out how to market itself to Champaign (hint, a Chicago-Champaign-St. Louis bus would be good. A Chicago-Champaign-Indianapolis route would fill a void. Megabus runs a Detroit-Ann Arbor-Toledo-Cleveland route, so it’s obviously not afraid of combining short distance legs.

That’s your update. C-U in Boston.

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