Talk about a cheap fling that didn't last: Apparently even $1 fares to San Francisco and Las Vegas aren't enough to lure Angelenos out of their cars.
Megabus.com, a subsidiary of Coach USA that began bargain bus service in August from Los Angeles, has stopped taking bookings on several routes for trips after June 8. Megabus stopped serving San Diego and Phoenix from L.A. earlier this year and may end all service from the city.
Dale Moser, president of Megabus.com, said Monday that the Paramus, N.J., company, which operates a thriving network in the Midwest and elsewhere, expects to decide by Friday whether to pull out of Los Angeles.
"Quite frankly, the ridership hasn't been as robust as we'd like," Moser said. "We might just have to discontinue" the service.
Although the company's 56-seat buses sometimes pull out of Los Angeles 75% or 80% full, they sometimes carry as few as 12 riders, he said. "We're not seeing increasing trends. The graph has leveled off."
That's in sharp contrast to the Midwest, where Megabus.com serves 17 cities and has seen its business increase 137% during the last year, Moser said.
The company, which began service in April 2006, recently expanded to eight East Coast cities.
Moser said he didn't know why more Californians hadn't warmed up to Megabus.
Given high gasoline prices, congested roads, growing environmental consciousness and marquee destinations such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, "we all truly believed that this would be an outstanding market," he said.
"Maybe, truth be told, we were unable to get them out of their cars," he said.
As of Monday, Megabus.com had stopped taking bookings from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, San Jose and Millbrae, Calif., for trips after June 8, and from Los Angeles to San Francisco and Oakland after June 22, Moser said.
He said those actions were precautions, pending a final decision.
"We will honor the tickets that have been sold," Moser said.
"We're not going to leave passengers stranded."