Megabus, Niagara Falls -> Toronto: Tantalizingly close to being great

As a frequent traveler between Niagara Falls and Toronto, I have LOTS to say about travel on this route. Today, I am making a conscious decision to stick to the short and the sweet; the urgent; the “Megabus, you come so close to being awesome, and yet you find incredible ways to disappoint!”

To get right to my point here: I have a major problem with Megabus’s stop locations. Specifically, the reliable stops are in sub-optimal places; whereas it is possible to get Megabus to stop in a good place, but not reliably.

Megabus:  Making the stops in all the wrong places…

Exhibit A
Exhibit A: Megabus Schedule & Fares

Let me first say that I think that all-in-all, Megabus is good. I find it necessary to share that proviso, given that the stigma toward bus riding is quite heavy in Niagara. As evidence of that goodness, in Exhibit A, I present the frequent list of departures and relatively affordable fares.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with Ontario buses, there is a catch: the only reliable service is effectively only between the bus terminals in Niagara Falls and Toronto (see Exhibit B).

Exhibit B
Exhibit B: Travel between central Niagara Falls & Downtown Toronto, on Megabus

Now I admit that there is reason to limit services to the most optimal express routes. I will also acknowledge that both Niagara Falls and Toronto chose to locate their terminals…in the places they did…with some downstream effects from those choices.

Exhibit C
Exhibit C: Backtracking in Niagara Falls

In Niagara Falls, the terminal is on the side of the city furthest from Toronto. This means that for us Fallsers, we travel in the wrong direction to take a bus that then backtracks past the areas from which we have come. For this, I present Exhibit C.

To their credit, Megabus and GoogleMaps have started to work together, and the route that Megabus takes most of the time is presented accurately. My residence in Niagara is near an area known locally as “5 Corners,” the location that I have identified as the start of my trip in GoogleMaps. According to GoogleMaps, for me to get to Toronto by 9:40 on a Tuesday morning, I need to leave 5 Corners through some combination of walking and local transit to arrive at Niagara Falls terminal for the 7:30 departure. Not presented here is the fact that most of the time, the bus rolls through 5 Corners at about 7:35, and drivers will usually pick you up if you wave at them. When this works, it can reduce a three-hour trip to two hours.

In some ways, this might seem like an example of GoogleMaps being behind the times, with riders finding increased options and agency with a little local knowledge. Except…that sometimes the bus takes an alternate route…or the driver will pass by without picking up the rider. See: Megabus, so close to being a great option, and yet, so frustratingly far.

Exhibit D
Exhibit D: Customer care, “Here’s confirmation that we won’t make this easy for you!”

Returning from Toronto the situation is a little better in that I am almost always happy to leave from the Toronto Coach Terminal, and therefore do not have the same fear about missing the bus. On the way into Niagara, though, the situation happens in reverse: if I can get off at 5 Corners it saves me a tonne of time. And yet, there remains some unpredictability, with Megabus proudly refusing to provide reliable service within Niagara Falls (see Exhibit D).

On the Toronto side of the trip, GoogleMaps must have taken a guess about the route,

Exhibit E
Exhibit E: Corrected route through Downtown Toronto, near Union Station (!)

because it does not match usual practice (see Exhibit E). There, the route systematically passes close to Union Station. Typically, drivers will make a flag stop – but not always. Although I respect the concept of a flag stop, given that it is better than no stop, the drawback to these is that the rider must not have any luggage (so as to avoid the driver having to disembark and open the luggage hold). Union Station is a major transportation hub for GO and VIA, and also a convenient UPX ride away from Pearson Airport. For all of these reasons, Megabus could be a fast and useful connection for travelers coming from Niagara and traveling onward. The catch here is that the arrival at Union Station is not reliable, and besides, it only works for passengers without luggage.

In conclusion, Megabus, you’re so close to being good! And yet, you find ways to take a bus-travel-in-ontario-is-on-fireloyal customer – one who is a smidgeon away from promoting you publicly – and incite that customer to write blog posts about how you disappoint. Megabus, can you please be good now?!?


Addendum: It is a great coincidence that the very day that I am writing this post I learned that Greyhound has initiated service to Pearson Airport. In classic Greyhound style, it is nearly impossible to tell where the bus is coming from or where it is going. The result is predictably unpredictable travel. Why is it take one hour and forty-five minutes at one time, but nearly five hours at a different time? Who knows?!? It is not a strength of Greyhound’s to inform riders of their operations.

Exhibit F
Exhibit F: Greyhound’s surprise new Pearson Airport service

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