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New bus service to connect Iowa City, Chicago

BY GRACE SAVIDES | APRIL 14, 2010 7:30 AM

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University of Iowa senior Matt Gerton will soon have another option for commuting to his home in Mundelein, Ill. — one with a cheaper price tag.

Megabus.com, a city-to-city express bus company that offers fares as low as $1, announced Tuesday that it will add a route between Des Moines and Chicago, with a stop in Iowa City.

Though Gerton said he wasn’t sure he’d abandon the Suburban Express, which offers bus service to the Chicago area, he’d think about looking to the company’s pricing.

“I’d consider it if it was a better deal,” said Gerton, whose hometown is around an hour from Chicago.

The new route will begin on May 4.

Riders books tickets online with the company, which launched in April 2006, and pick them up at designated locations. Based in Chicago, the company has no stations, just stops.

“When you can mitigate that kind of overhead, you can share that cost saving with the customer,” said Dale Moser, the president and chief operating officer of Megabus.com.

On the site, ticket prices are set by software the company developed itself.

While fares start as low as $1, plus a 50-cent booking fee, the price increases as the departure date draws closer based on a number of components including weather and location.

For example, students who booked a ticket on Tuesday for May 4 would pay $1.

The two new locations come as a logical choice, Moser said, for filling a gap in the company’s Midwest service and providing transportation to college students commuting to and from Chicago.

“Those travelers are looking for a way to and from home,” Moser said. “I don’t know another way you can do it more economically.”

Each Megabus.com bus has a Wi-Fi connection and electrical outlets. People between the ages of 18 and 35 make up 60 percent of Megabus.com’s sales, Moser said.

Buses will stop in Iowa City twice a day, picking up riders at the corner of South Dubuque and East Court Streets. Iowa City officials recommended that location, Moser said.

The stop is also on the same block as the Greyhound station, 170 E. Court St.

Greyhound spokesman Timothy Stokes said it was unclear how Megabus.com would affect its business. The company plans to continue its current services, he said.

In 2009, more than 9,500 people traveled from Iowa City to Chicago by Greyhound. That company’s tickets from Iowa City to Chicago can cost up to $50.

Of 15 UI students The Daily Iowan spoke with on Tuesday, a dozen said they would use the service either to commute home to Chicago or to visit that area.

Second-year UI law student Jane Zhi said she was interested in the free Wi-Fi offered on the buses. The route would be a good option for students, she said, and would be especially beneficial for those leaving from Chicago airports.

“It will be nice to have a more economical option,” she said.


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