Megabus, the low-cost, city-to-city bus company, begins daily service Tuesday from Columbia to four Southeastern cities.
Booking only online, passengers can travel nonstop between Columbia and Atlanta, Athens, Ga., Fayetteville, N.C., and Durham, N.C.
Local passengers will catch the Megabus at the COMET’s transit center at Laurel and Sumter streets in downtown Columbia.
The trip to Atlanta will take about five hours, said Mike Alvich, vice-president of marketing for Megabus.com.
One-way fares cost as little as $1, with the best rates available by booking early and by traveling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, he said.
The company’s strategy in the Southeast has been to cater to students and young professionals by providing service to college towns, said Bob Schneider, executive director of COMET, the Columbia-area mass transit system.
“It’s a really cool service,” he said, using double-decker buses with expansive windows and free Wi-fi service.
Added Keith Seymour, spokesman for the Midlands Transit Riders Association: “We think it’s great, and we’d like to see more of it. ... Atlanta and Fayetteville are obviously a good start.”
Three times a day, buses will make round trips between Columbia and Atlanta, Durham and Fayetteville. Service between Columbia and Athens is less frequent: round trips twice a day during the work week and once on weekends, Alvich said.
In 2006, Megabus began providing its nonstop services in the United States after launching in the United Kingdom. Since then, it has expanded to more than 120 U.S. cities in 34 states.
The Columbia service marks its entrance into the South Carolina market.
The COMET’s Schneider said officials with Megabus contacted him about a year ago to inquire about a partnership, which involves cross-promotion in addition to the agreement allowing the long-distance buses to use the downtown transit center.