Anaheim’s ARTIC station adds high-tech, low-cost FlixBus service
Though the number of transit riders using the ARTIC station still hasn’t matched Anaheim’s initial forecasts, the gap may be shrinking after the addition last month of FlixBus.
Launched five years ago in Germany and now operating in 28 countries, FlixBus offers long-haul service that’s more like Megabus than Greyhound: modern, comfortable buses with on-board wifi and movies riders can plug in their own device to watch. Its one-way fares typically range from $5 to $30, with occasional super-discounted 99 cent trips.
FlixBus has a different business model than more traditional bus companies, said Pierre Gourdain, CEO for the company’s U.S. operations. It partners with local charter bus companies, who own and operate the distinctive orange and acid-green vehicles; FlixBus handles routing and schedules and sells ticket through its website and smartphone app.
It’s been described as Uber for buses, but Gourdain resists the comparison, noting that FlixBus works with established operators rather than independent contractors.
But the company does target a younger demographic who may be on a budget, prefer to shop for tickets online or may be new to long-distance buses, he said.
Since opening nearly four years ago, ARTIC has added riders, but still falls short of projections city officials agree were overly optimistic for the $185 million station.
FlixBus may give the numbers a boost. It began operating in Anaheim last month and has already sold about 4,500 tickets there, city spokeswoman Lauren Gold said.
“That’s a great start, and we’re really excited to see that and we expect it to grow,” she said.
California has seen a number of widely-publicized charter bus accidents in recent years, including a 2016 crash near Palm Springs that killed 13 people. Gourdain said his company takes safety seriously, only using newer buses, following the California Highway Patrol’s bus regulations as well as the company’s own standards, and it requires two drivers on all night trips so no one is tempted to keep going when drowsy.
“We have the newest fleet in the industry today in the U.S.,” he said.
So far, Anaheim has been one of the busiest end-points for FlixBus business travelers, but the company also wanted to be near Disneyland, Gourdain said.
And if you’re looking for cheap tickets to Las Vegas or San Diego – the service’s most popular destinations from Anaheim – Gourdain advised, “We encourage people who want to get good deals to buy early, because that’s when you’re going to get the better prices.”
FlixBus joins Tres Estrellas de Oro, which in 2016 started offering rides from Anaheim to Tijuana and Guadelajara, Mexico, in growing ARTIC’s ridership.
The ARTIC station is still projected to run at a loss of about $2.4 million this fiscal year – down from a $2.6 milion deficit two years ago – but Gold said the Lost Bean coffee shop, expected to open next year, will help the bottom line along with existing food options such as Auntie Anne’s pretzels and the popular Oyster Bar restaurant. An upstairs space that had been planned for a brewpub is still in need of a tenant.