FlixBus is extended its service to Northern and Southern California through Fresno. Photo contributed
Written by David Castellon
Amid all the talk about transporting people between Southern California and the Bay Area — through the Central Valley — on high-speed trains, a business that started in Germany is counting on people still wanting reliable, inexpensive bus service to these destinations.
To that end, FlixBus USA started bus service between California, Nevada and Arizona on May 31, and on Wednesday the fledgling American division began offering stops for passenger pickups and drop-offs in Fresno.
From these locales, passengers can get bus rides to San Francisco or Reno on the northern route, with stops in Merced, Modesto and Stockton.
The southern route has stops in Bakersfield, Burbank, Downtown Los Angeles and Anaheim, with connections to La Jolla and San Diego.
And while FlixBus officials are quick to point out that all of their busses are new and provide passengers Wi-Fi access and charging outlets as selling points, possibly the strongest one are the ticket prices, which range from $4.99 to $29.99, said Pierre Gourdain, who previously ran the company’s Paris division and now is the managing director of the start-up U.S. division, based in Southern California.
He noted that $29.99 is the maximum price for anywhere on the lines to which Fresno is connected, even for the 500-mile-plus trip from San Diego to San Francisco. But exactly what ticket rate a rider gets will depend partly on how far in advance it’s purchased.
“We price a little bit like airlines. If you want to get the best price, you should book early,” Gourdain said, adding, “There is no cheaper way to travel on the West Coast.”
As for how the company can offer those rates, Gourdain said that unlike Greyhound and other bus companies, FlixBus doesn’t own the green-and-orange buses it uses. They’re owned by independent partners who contract with FlixBus, which handles ticket sales, customer service, scheduling, planning and marketing.
“Our green FlixBus fleet relies on close bus partnerships with small and medium-sized companies, often family-owned businesses, who act as our regional partners and are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the buses,” the company’s website states.
It goes on to say that FlixMobility, the start-up for FlixBus, was founded in 2013 by three young entrepreneurs in Munich, Germany, “who had the vision of making sustainable bus travel both comfortable and affordable.” FlixBus was officially launched after the deregulation of the German bus market and quickly became the leading long-distance travel provider within the country.
Tickets are sold via an app or on the FlixBus website, he said, adding that at the moment bus drivers can’t sell tickets.
All that makes for a cheaper operation than would be the case if the company had large numbers of employees and had to support costly overhead, Gourdain said.
In Fresno, instead of picking up and dropping off people up at a bus terminal, all of that occurs at the Fashion Fair Mall, in the vicinity of the JCPenney department store.
From the mall, the company is offering six daily departures ending at San Francisco, Reno and Anaheim, along with an equal number of incoming buses from those locales.
Trip lengths range from five to eight hours, though traffic conditions effect those times, said Gourdain, adding that “We are very good at alerting our customers” about late bus arrivals.
He added that riders can track their buses’ current locations using the FlixBus app, “So you can stay at home and know when to meet your bus.”
To book a ride or to find out more about FlixBus, go online to www.flixbus.com.