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A Look At Recent Megabus Problems: Coincidence Or Pattern?

A double-decker Megabus crashed into a concrete pillar on Interstate 55 on Aug. 2, 2012. (Credit: KMOV)

A double-decker Megabus crashed into a concrete pillar on Interstate 55 on Aug. 2, 2012. (Credit: KMOV)

Derrick Blakley Derrick Blakley
Derrick Blakley is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s been a rough week for Megabus, as the discount intercity bus line has been involved in two fatal accidents in Illinois, and agreed to pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a man struck and killed by a Megabus two years ago.

The list of problems for Megabus got a bit longer on Thursday, when Chopper 2 HD spotted a Megabus near Joliet, pulled over to get a new tire on I-55, forcing passengers to switch to another bus.

Is all of this just a coincidence, or a more troubling pattern of problems for Megabus? CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley went to find out.

Megabus is a fast-growing, discount intercity bus line, but are they cutting safety as well?

The company has been involved in four public incidents in the past week, two of them fatal.

Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday added his voice to the list of critics. He urged U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to have the federal government investigate the company, the Sun-Times Media Wire reported.

“We believe that a full federal investigation into the operations and history of the firm would provide a baseline for any policy changes or other considerations that might logically result from what is learned about these crashes,” Quinn wrote.

Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) is asking the Chicago Department of Transportation to take a closer look at Megabus operations, and make sure they’re complying with all state and local laws.

“I’m always concerned with discount prices and what they mean for the service to the individual,” he said. “We have to make sure that the passenger safety is utmost of concern of anybody. Since they’re in, and they use the streets of the city of Chicago … we’ve got to make sure it’s a safe bus, it’s a safe entity, it’s a safe transportation.”

Fioretti’s personal friend, 76-year-old Donna Halstead, was hit and killed by a Megabus on Tuesday near Union Station.

That’s just two blocks away from where a Megbus fatally struck 76-year-old Wes Krueger in 2010, resulting in the company’s agreement Wednesday to pay $5.1 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit against Megabus, while admitting no wrongdoing.

Last week, a Megabus passenger was killed when a bus blew a tire on I-55 near downstate Litchfield, Ill., and crashed into a concrete pillar. Dozens of other passengers were hurt.

And, on Wednesday, a Megabus caught fire after blowing a tire on I-85 in Georgia, while traveling from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C. All of the passengers and the driver were evacuated safely.

In light of Megabus’ recent problems, Krueger family attorney Dan Kotin said, “I think we need to start looking at the industry as a whole.”

To cut expenses, Megabus operates without terminals, picking up and unloading passengers right from the street.

It’s a business model that’s growing, but in a report last year, the National Transportation Safety Board found the curbside pickup bus industry has a troubling safety record.

The fatal accident rate for traditional bus companies is two deaths per 1,000 vehicles. For curbside companies, it’s 14 per 1,000 vehicles – seven times higher.

The Chicago office for Megabus said an executive wasn’t available to comment.

A Megabus spokesperson said each accident is under investigation, and they won’t speculate about the cause. The company said it’s continuing to focus on preventative measures to safeguard customers, staff, and other drivers.

A unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation is reviewing Megabus’ safety record, but that agency – which regulates bus companies – is so overburdened, they have one inspector for every 1,000 bus companies.