Note: This article was first published in 2016, but has been updated to reflect my experiences traveling on Megabus more than 20 times.
When traveling long distances, I prefer sticking to airplanes and trains. But when a short trip arises, I will consider bus services like Greyhound and Megabus. This is especially convenient if there are no flights or trains connecting the cities, and a taxi ride would be cost-prohibitive. The low cost and wheelchair accessible Megabus service can be an excellent choice for short-distance accessible transportation, and it is a choice I have made more than 20 times.
Megabus offers regional motor coach service in numerous markets around the United States and Canada. It's not nationwide like Greyhound, but you can still travel long distances. I have used Megabus in Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., but the network extends to many other states including (but not limited to) California, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada and New York.
While I have not taken a true long haul trip on a bus, I have traveled up to 6 hours on Megabus. Most of my trips have been a much more manageable 2 to 3 hours.
Tickets & Reservation
Megabus tickets can be purchased up to the time of scheduled departure using the company's website. The screenshots below depict a sample booking from Orlando to Miami, Florida. Reservations can be made directly from the Megabus.com homepage. Choose either a one-way or round trip itinerary, enter your desired cities, select a date and indicate how many passengers are traveling as shown below.
Once you have entered in the relevant details of your trip, click the button labeled "Special Needs" on the form. Doing so will bring up a series of prompts, shown in the screenshots below.
You will be prompted to provide three answers to questions about your specific accessibility need. If you are traveling with a wheelchair, it is imperative that you indicate that you will be bringing a "mobility unit" on the form.
If you are traveling with a companion, book your tickets together! Megabus provides a free ticket to "Personal Care Attendants" and wheelchair users definitely qualify for this concession. Bravo to Megabus for going above and beyond the call of duty!
Once you have answered the special needs questions, the pop-up will disappear and you'll be back at the form on the homepage. At this point, click the "Find Tickets" button.
You'll be taken to a list of available itineraries sorted by time of departure. I strongly recommend choosing the shortest journey time with the fewest connections/transfers. Choose the itinerary you want, then click "Add to basket."
Once your journey has been added to your basket, you'll be free to select seats. If you plan to remain seated in your wheelchair during the trip, you don't have to do anything on this page.
The wheelchair space on the seat map is clearly marked. If you indicated during booking that you are traveling with a mobility device, that space is automatically reserved for you.
Interestingly, Megabus does not require wheelchair users to sit in the wheelchair they bring onboard. So, even if your power wheelchair is taking up the wheelchair space, you can sit in a non-reserved seat on the bus, or pay to reserve one of the premium seats. Of course, you are also welcome to remain in your wheelchair.
Once you are finished with the seat map, click continue. You'll then complete the check-out process and pay for your ticket.
Riding Megabus with a Wheelchair
In most cities where Megabus operates, there is no brick-and-mortar station. Orlando, Florida does have a station, but other Florida destinations like Ft. Lauderdale, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Miami, Tallahassee and Tampa do not. The Megabus usually stops near connections to public transportation services like the city bus, train, metro, etc.
I recommend arriving at the station or bus stop 20 to 30 minutes before scheduled departure. You'll need to bring a copy of your ticket confirmation (sent in an e-mail) to board the bus. Many people print their tickets, but I just pull up the confirmation e-mail on my iPhone.
Megabus motor coaches are double-decker. Wheelchair users board via a portable ramp which can be quite steep if the bus is not parked alongside a curb. The ramp allows for barrier-free boarding of the bus. It folds up and is stored onboard in a closet - meaning it will be available for use at any stop or in case of an emergency.
Wheelchair access is only possible on the lower deck, where several rows of seats are condensed (pushed forward) to make space for a wheelchair.
That's me, above, sitting in my wheelchair while riding Megabus! The securement area is located directly inside the rear door, on the right side. Wheelchairs are secured to the floor using four Q-STRAINT straps. An across-the-chest seatbelt is also available, but I prefer not to wear it.
Air conditioning vents, reading lights and power outlets are located above the seats (and wheelchair space) on an overhead console. I always use these power ports to keep my laptop and mobile phone charged. Free Wi-Fi is available on most Megabus coaches, but your phone's 4G or LTE service will be much faster.
Megabus rides are generally quiet, with most riders actually being college students (at least on the routes I have taken). The majority of passengers are seated on the upper deck, so you won't share the lower deck with very many people (12 to 14 at most).
There is a small bathroom on the coach, but you would need to be independently mobile to use it. My wheelchair definitely could not have fit through the door, and the space appeared smaller than a standard aircraft lavatory. Passengers can alight at the various stops to use the bathroom, but will need to notify the bus driver. On my short trips of 2-3 hours, I am usually fine with waiting to use the loo at my destination.
The majority of my Megabus experiences have been positive from start to finish. The staff are generally helpful, the buses accessible and almost always on-time.
If I need to take a short trip in Florida or elsewhere, I always check the Megabus fares and schedules. For longer trips, it makes sense to stick with airplanes and trains for comfort, speed and convenience. The more options for accessible transportation the better!
Regional bus services can be a great option for the wheelchair traveler. I'd love to hear about your own experiences in the comments below. Is there something I have missed? Have you ever had any issues with transportation services like Megabus? Would the Megabus work for you?