All Aboard the Mighty Megabus

Laura Braden Business 10 Comments

Confession – I’ve lived in Knoxville for 20+ and never ridden KAT. In fact, the only time I’ve taken the trolley was from a wedding to the reception downtown… and that was a private rental courtesy of the bride’s family.

It’s not that I’m opposed to mass transit, far from it. I was car-free the four+ years I lived in California and got around easily on my beach cruiser, two feet, Amtrak and light rail. And I used to love taking the Chinatown bus from DC to Manhattan while living in our nation’s capital.

So I was psyched to hear that Megabus had expanded service into Knoxville and was offering rides to DC, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, Chattanooga and Christiansburg. Per KNS, Megabus launched in 2006, is a subsidiary of Coach USA and bills itself as one of the largest intercity express bus service providers in North America.

In other words, it’s the hipper, cleaner and safer version of Greyhound.

I took the Knoxville to Nashville route – here’s the lowdown…

Megabus leaves from the Knoxville Transit Center (301 E. Church Ave) so you can bus there or park your car at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum garage across the street ($10, 621 Howard Baker Jr. Blvd). They pick up on the Church Avenue side of the Center, and if you have time to kill, check out the café on the lower level (coffee, snacks, etc).

To board, either hand the bus driver your printed confirmation or show him the confirmation number (via mobile device from the reservation email). He/she will write down the number, load any luggage and then you can board. Not the most sophisticated system, but the line moved pretty quickly.

I chose the back of the bus on the second level because the ceiling is one giant sunroof. The bus was about 2/3 full so I had the entire row to myself. My new transit friends included young professionals, families, seniors, a couple of tweens traveling by themselves and none other than the esteemed local blogger/photographer Dan Andrews (great catching up with you Dan!).

The trip took less than three hours (no stops). Megabus dropped us off in downtown Nashville (Commerce and 5th St.) right across from Panera (401 Commerce St.) and a block from the Renaissance Hotel (611 Commerce St.). I walked a block to Broadway to easily catch a cab, but check out the Taxi Magic app to schedule one to come directly to you.

The return trip was equally enjoyable so I’m officially a fan/loyal customer. I felt completely safe the entire time, the driver was friendly and helpful, and the bus was immaculately clean. I’ve already booked another trip to Nashville and an overnight trip to Memphis for a wedding in June. Friends have raved about the overnight bus to DC, so I plan on utilizing it the next time I have to be up there for clients.

For me, Megabus saves time, money (GAS PRICES!!!) and the environment. I usually have to drive to Nashville super early or late in the day to avoid missing client emails, deadlines, etc. So I loved being able to pop open my laptop and keep on working like I was sitting in front of my desk. I encourage everyone to check it out!

A few recommendations…

  • Be flexible – there’s only one or two routes per day. My return options were 2:40am (???) or 3:00pm so I ended up working during the day at Panera across the street.
  • Arrive 15-20 minutes early – they’ll be there and you can board early.
  • Try not to have more than one bag/suitcase.
  • Print off your confirmation email/reservation to make it easier on the driver.
  • Don’t count on the Wi-Fi. It wasn’t working during my trip, and I’ve heard similar complaints from friends. Be sure to take your wireless modem/laptop card just in case.

Bottom line? Megabus is clean, safe, green, convenient and super cheap.

  • Ticket: $9 (round-trip – but rates vary from $1-50)
  • Parking in Knoxville: $10
  • Taxi to my destination in Nashville: $11 (my brother dropped me off for the return trip)
  • Grand total: $30

What does everyone else think? Had a bad experience? What are the other routes like? Leave your comments below or email me at lauraebraden AT gmail DOT com.

Comments 10

  1. I bought an extra week of vacation last year specifically so that I could spend a week with my best friend at her farm in New York.  Getting there was a big concern — I didn’t want to fly because of the expense, I couldn’t easily take a train (unless I was able to get a ride to somewhere Amtrak deigned to serve), and I was staring down the barrel at a horrible Greyhound trip.  Then Megabus came to Knoxville! 

    Due to several introductory promotions that were going on, I was able to schedule my trip to New York (stopping in the DC hub) for $2.00. Two dollars!!  I picked the overnight to DC, which dropped me at the K Street parking lot sometime around dawn — and I was in NYC by lunchtime.  It was a very comfortable ride out, if a bit long to be sitting, the Wi-Fi never gave out, I was able to keep my phone charged and play a bit on the laptop before sleeping the miles away.  The trip back was a bit more expensive, but that was largely due to the fact that I wasn’t entirely sure of my return date, so bought those tickets later than I had for the trip out.

    Still, all-told, the cost for my travel to New York and back to Knoxville was 47 dollars.  That also includes a five dollar fee for requesting an earlier bus than what you’ve originally purchased.  Make sure you have a debit card on hand for these kinds of last-minute changes though, the drivers do not accept cash.

    The people I traveled with were very friendly, and here’s where we get to the part where I start to sound like an elitist snob.  I’m glad that it requires a debit card and/or internet access to purchase a ticket from Megabus, because having ridden Greyhound from Knoxville to DC (17 hours), I can tell you that when just anyone can walk up to a counter with cash in hand, then that means that you can be sharing an enclosed, confined space with just anyone.   I don’t mean to imply that having a debit/credit card or internet access somehow makes one less creepy, but it’s a step in the right direction.

  2. I definitely had a you-get-what-you-pay-for experience. I took the Megabus from Knoxville to DC last April, and the bus was 4 hours late getting to Knoxville (for the 10 p.m. departure time, so we’re talking 2 a.m. departure). The wi-fi didn’t work either.

    I’m sure this is the exception or else Megabus wouldn’t survive. But when you don’t pay a lot of money for your ticket, you can’t expect the best customer service in return.

  3. I’ve taken it to DC and to Atlanta. You can’t beat the price. I rode on the top level to DC but got motion sickness, so I rode on the bottom on the way back. MUCH better!

  4. I’ve taken the Megabus multiple times to DC and back and for the price it’s hard to beat. I normally book late so it’s about $50/trip. On a side note, I came back from DC on the Sunday day bus and realized at about 10am that I hadn’t brought any food with me.  Thankfully, we stopped right around noon so people could grab food.  It was a great experience!

  5. Wer’re planning a trip to Disney this summery, and it recently occurred to me that I’d *love* to take the Mega Bus rather than drive on our own!

  6. I just rode Megabus for the first time and was a little hesitant, but decided to try it out anyway. My trip was from Nashville to Chicago and back. It was an all around good experience except for one part. The bus was 1 and 1/2 hours late to pick us up as 7 of us girls were sitting on a sidewalk in downtown Nashville, in not so good of an area downtown. Instead of leaving at midnight, it was 1:30 am! We were on hold w/customer service for 30 minutes and never talked to anyone. Also the bus was freezing, take a blanket!!!

    Lea T.

    1. There is not a Nashville to Knoxville Route. Not yet anyway. I plan to drive to Knoxville from Clarksville to get the Megabus to Columbus Ohio.

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