Megabus cuts back trips from Pittsburgh

Since announcing with fanfare in 2011 that Pittsburgh would be a hub city, has trimmed the number of destinations it serves from here by more than half.

Service to Cleveland, Toledo, Ohio, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich., ended this month, leaving the low-cost carrier with these destinations from Pittsburgh: New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., State College, Harrisburg and Morgantown, W.Va.

Earlier to hit the chopping block were trips to Akron, Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio; Erie, Pa.; Buffalo and Niagara Falls, N.Y., Camden, N.J., Frederick, Md., and Toronto.

The destinations all were dropped because of insufficient ridership, said Mike Alvich, the carrier's vice president of marketing and public relations.

"We love Pittsburgh as a hub. As a retail enterprise you've got to be able to cover costs. We just have not been able to get enough ridership to support it," he said.

Mr. Alvich said patronage on the remaining routes is strong, and would not rule out restoring lost service or connecting Pittsburgh with other cities if market conditions become favorable.

While Pittsburgh has been an uneven experience, continues to grow rapidly across the continent.

Since its inception in 2006, has carried more than 35 million riders and now serves more than 120 cities in North America. Its routes touch 32 states. It reported a 20 percent growth in sales last year and recently announced plans to expand service in Florida.

The company touts its comfortable double-decker buses with electric outlets and free Wi-Fi and one-way fares as low as $1, although as of Monday morning, there were few seats available at that price for those traveling from Pittsburgh. Prices, which are based on demand, have edged upward since the company started serving Pittsburgh in 2010.

A price check Monday morning showed that through Sept. 9, which is currently the last day that can be booked in advance, there were no seats available at $1 from Pittsburgh to New York City. Buses to Philadelphia had $1 seats on three days in August; buses to Washington had $1 seats on nine days in July and August.

Otherwise, one-way fares ranged from $10 to $79 to New York; $13 to $55 to Philadelphia; and $15 to $44 to Washington. -- which offers seating on a first-come, first-served basis -- last month announced an experiment with limited reserved seating on some routes, but none serving Pittsburgh.

For an extra fee, passengers on the designated routes can reserve one of 10 seats on the 81-seat buses that the carrier has determined are the favorites among its customers, Mr. Alvich said. Riders have been known to line up at stops an hour before departure to claim those seats, he said.

The test begins May 28 on routes in the corridor from Washington to Boston. "Our goal is to roll it out nationally," he said.

Meanwhile, a push to relocate the company's Pittsburgh stop from its current location under the David L. Lawrence Convention Center at 10th Street and Penn Avenue appears to have lost momentum.

The administration of former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl tried to move the stop to Gateway Center in 2012 but was rebuffed by property owners there. Efforts to find another site lagged, and a spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto said he knew of no current plan to relocate the stop.

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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