For students whose destinations expand beyond Chicagoland this spring break, plans must include travel arrangements. It often becomes a choice between planes, trains and automobiles while weighing price, convenience and time.
A new factor that might be added to the mix is safety, at least for those who are considering Megabus, an international bus and coach company.
On Feb. 21, a Megabus traveling from Chicago to Minneapolis caught on fire after a blown tire forced the bus to pull over to the side of the road in Illinois, 50 minutes into the trip.
Such incidents are not new to Megabus, as buses have had blown tires in the past that have lead to accidents and even fires. In April 2014, a burst tire caused a New York-bound bus to run into the guardrail on I-95 in Maryland.
Less than two years before that, two more incidents occurred due to blown tires. One lead to a crash in southern Illinois, and the other, in Georgia, resulted in the bus catching on fire.
Both accidents happened six days apart, prompting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to issue a safety advisory bulletin addressing the issue.
“Under specific circumstances, motorcades utilizing the double-deck design may be susceptible to exceeding the tire weight limit when loaded with passengers and luggage at full capacity,” stated the FMCSA.
The advisory stated a tire is more likely to “overheat and fail” when the motor coach exceeds its load carrying capacity, especially for tires on the rear wheels.
The wheel affected in the case on Feb. 21 was a rear tire, but an official investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of the fire.
Sean Hughes, director of Corporate Affairs for Megabus.com, North America, released the following official statement:
“Megabus takes safety as our top priority and maintains the highest safety compliance rating (Satisfactory) from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”
Some students remain steadfast with their choice of riding Megabus despite the recent accident.
“I’m not too worried with an incident like [a fire] happening,” said Drew Gaurke, a junior economics major. “Megabus services hundreds of rides a day, and there are bound to be a couple breakdowns.”
For other students, the possibility of blowing a tire, however low, does not have much impact on their views of the bus company. The benefits can sometimes outweigh the risks, according to Collin Kim, a senior marketing major.
The main benefit Kim is referring to is Megabus’ cheap prices, advertised to be as low as $1. Yet the risks can also include unpredictable crowds and shaky reliability.
“From my experience, Megabus seems to come a little later than Amtrak,” said Kaytie Faries, a senior music major, comparing Megabus’ timeliness to other transportation options.
Kim and Faries have both switched from taking Megabus to taking trains and planes when considering factors of time and convenience.
Still, no concerns about fire or tardiness will stop budget-conscious students from booking a ticket with the double-decker bus company.
“It is a risk I am willing to take for such a low cost,” Gaurke said.