Passengers on a Greyhound Express bus from L.A. to Bakersfield. (Arkasha Stevenson / Los…)
Greyhound will roll out its new Express service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas starting Wednesday with five round trips daily and two added round trips on Fridays and Saturdays. And seats start at just $1 each way.
Sound familiar? It should. Megabus jumped into the L.A. market in 2007 with super-cheap fares from L.A. to San Francisco and L.A. to Las Vegas. The company, which continues to operate in the East and Midwest, left the L.A. market less than a year later, saying ridership was too low to continue.
Greyhound seems to have taken a page from its playbook. It follows the same come-on that Megabus promised: Book early enough and you'll pay just $1 for a seat. (The online booking site showed $1 fares available on Friday, Dec. 7, as of Monday afternoon, for example.)
But Greyhound is trying to do something more here. The company wants to shake up the stodgy bus-travel image and replace it with a premium service that it hopes will appeal to riders.
Express service means leather seats, free Wi-Fi and electrical plug-ins for laptop users, reserved seats and extra legroom. It was rolled out in the West in May on service from L.A. to Oakland, San Jose, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton and Sacramento. (For a preview of who your seat companion might be and the old Greyhound versus the new Greyhound, check out what happened on L.A. Times writer Chris Erskine's ride from L.A. to Sacramento in a $1 seat.)
But the real head-scratcher is this: Why would Greyhound succeed where Megabus failed?
I asked Greyhound Chief Executive Dave Leach that question back in May when Greyhound Express started up in California. "First and foremost, we had existing services," he said. "We had buses, drivers, sales services and a brand that has first-class recognition."
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