The Megabus Hour

My standard departure hour from work is about 6 p.m. or so, which happens to coincide with the time that the Megabus coaches roll through downtown Columbus.  The Megabus stop is at the corner of Fourth and Spring downtown, which is right along my route home.

IMG_2088Megabus is an interesting business concept.  Owned by a British company called Stagecoach, it’s scheme is to provide low-cost, high-quality intercity bus service that competes with Greyhound.  Unlike Greyhound, however, Megabus doesn’t have bus terminals — it just stops on the street at the appointed time, drops people off, picks people up, and rolls on.

Russell has used the Megabus and thinks it is a pretty good deal.  The coaches are clean and equipped with the modern amenities, like plug-ins and wireless, and since there’s there’s nothing particularly glamorous about bus terminals he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on anything by waiting on the street to catch a ride.  Judging by the number of Columbusites I’ve seen using the Megabus, he’s not alone in that sentiment.  There’s always a crowd waiting to board and always a crowd debarking, too.

The Bus-Riding Conservative is a big fan of bus companies like Megabus, and thinks we are foolish to try to rebuild rail infrastructure when Megabus can offer reasonably priced long-haul passenger transportation.  I see the merit to the BRC’s analysis.  Companies like Megabus use existing infrastructure and don’t require the expenditure of cash needed to permit high-speed rail travel in rail-free states like Ohio.  Megabus also won’t need the ongoing governmental subsidies that rail travel seems to demand.  If businesses like Megabus fail, taxpayers won’t be on the hook and stuck with a white elephant terminal — the intersection of Spring and Fourth will just be a little less crowded come 6 p.m.

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Sitting On A Gas Price Spike

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

Could you please talk to your chauffeurs about the price of gas?  I know that you probably don’t drive or gas up your own vehicles, but your handlers and advisers and staffers just might, and therefore might know what I’m talking about.

The price of gas is spiking.  Here in Ohio, the average price per gallon increased 20 cents last week, and the price continues to climb rapidly.  This week, on my drive to Cleveland, a three-quarter tank fill-up cost more than $60.  Just to make sure you understand, that is not a good thing.  $60 is a lot of money.  If you have a job that requires you to drive a lot, as many of us do, higher gas prices suck.  As you’re driving, watching the fuel gauge drift down, you feel like you’re sitting on that sharp gas price spike, if you catch my drift.

Please don’t tell us nothing can be done about it right now, because drilling for oil in America wouldn’t affect prices in the short term.  Incidentally, why does that rationale only get used to avoid developing our natural resources, and never when we are talking about things like building commuter rail lines that wouldn’t be ready for years?  In any case, no one expects you to snap your fingers and lower prices immediately.  We do know, however, that the law of supply and demand works, and if we collect the oil and gas within our borders it will result in lower prices than would otherwise exist.  We just want you to stop flapping your gums and get off your duffs and do something to avoid the likelihood that we’ll be dealing with $6.00 or $7.00 or $8.00 a gallon gas for the indefinite future.

Speaking of commuter rail, please don’t lecture us about public transportation.  Out here in the Midwest, we don’t have the luxury of subsidized Amtrak trains as a travel option, and most of us who need to drive can’t plan our business trips around bus schedules.  You need to accept and embrace the fact that ours is a country of car owners and drivers, and we need gas.  Welcome to reality!

So please, figure out how to get our oil and gas out of the ground and into our tanks, and to do so in a way that is environmentally sensitive.  If you can’t do that, we’ll find somebody who can.  If that happens, perhaps you can experience firsthand the joys of crushingly expensive gas as you are driving to your cushy lobbying job or your next lucrative speaking engagement.

Sincerely, the American Commuter