Mega Problems for Mega Bus
By Era Sundar, KUT News
Mega Bus is a transportation company that provides low-cost fares in several Texas cities. But some of its practices are drawing criticism from the City of Austin and groups that advocate for the rights of disabled people.
People love a good bargain. With fares starting as low as one dollar, Mega Bus was set to deliver. But the City of Austin wasn’t buying. Steve Grassfield is a manager with the city’s Transportation Department. He says Mega Bus can’t operate in the city right-of-way like public transportation does – picking up people on the sidewalk.
“The passenger capacity is much greater than typical buses along with the luggage,” Grassfield says. “It was a mobility and safety issue.”
The city issued a cease-and-desist order against the company. But Mega Bus found a solution: They signed a contract with a private parking lot less than half a block from their original pick-up and drop-off site, on a sidewalk near UT.
The pick-up location is sorted out, but issues of accessibility remain – according to the American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit, at least. Jennifer McPhail is a community organizer with the group.
“They have a process where you have to reserve a wheelchair-accessible bus, but you can’t reserve that bus online,” McPhail says. “They do their business predominantly online and you have no way of accessing the [wheelchair] accessible bus online.”
Mega Bus says they’re doing their part. According to director Bryony Chamberlain, the company’s buses are 100 percent compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act. And she says disabled people will have the option to book tickets online.
“To manage that, we actually had to rebuild the web engine from the bottom up,” Chamberlain says. “The majority of that work is complete and we hope to have that switched on within the next couple of months. This will be the first of its kind in the industry.”
But McPhail says that’s not good enough.
“They had a year and a month to figure out how to work out the kinks in the system,” she says. “And they should have done that before they extended their business into Texas.”
Mega Bus is also having permitting issues related to their pick-up and drop-off location in Dallas. Chamberlain says the company hopes to have those issues ironed out within six weeks.