Luxury Coach & Transportation

March 2015

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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LIMOUSINE, CHARTER & TOUR MARCH 2015 39 lieve Congress has kicked the can down the road too often. Nobody wants to be the frst one to put their hand up and say we need higher taxes or fees. At the same time, we can't let the infrastructure crumble. There are groups in Congress that would like to eliminate the federal highway program and kick it back to the states. But having 50 different state pro- grams would be like having 50 different militias to defend the country. It doesn't make a lot of sense. Congress needs to fgure out how it can come up with a program that funds the transportation needs for the next decade and beyond. • • • • • LCT: Anything else you see on the horizon? Pantuso: We hear the Department of Transportation may be looking to change insurance requirements for motorcoach- es. Currently, it is $5 million in liability, and because that hasn't changed in 30 years, some think with infation in medi- cal costs that it should go up to the $20 million to $30 million range. I think they lost track of the fact that insurance is something owners buy to protect them- selves. And while there needs to be a suf- fcient rate, going beyond that should be up to each individual to make that deter- mination — not the federal government. It makes sense to look at it, but they should also be looking at issues such as tort reform and a whole lot of other is- sues that affect insurance rates. — LCT: What patterns have you observed among limousine operations and motor- coach service? Pantuso: We really saw a lot of move- ment to motorcoaches in 2008-09 when the limousine industry got soft, and we've been following operators adding motor- coaches to their feets. What excites me about the trend is limousine operators are very customer focused and have the highest regard for service, and they carry that forward to the charter business. • • • • • LCT: How is the motorcoach industry responding to pressure to reduce vehicle emissions and provide better fuel economy? Pantuso: By every metric, a motorcoach is one of the most effcient and clean- est forms of transportation. Many studies have confrmed that measuring on a per- passenger and per-mile basis. A number of years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists studied all travel modes, and motorcoaches came up as the cleanest form of transportation on a per-person and per-mile basis. Today, there are new ultra-low sulfur diesel engines and some that run on fve to seven percent ethanol blends that have cleaner air go- ing out than going in, so the technology is "green." If you look at bus emissions divided by 50 people, there is no com- parison to any other vehicles regarding a carbon footprint. • • • • • LCT: What about compressed natural gas? Pantuso: We don't typically see CNG in our industry because tanks eat up luggage space. Maybe for commuter operations, but it's just starting. • • • • • LCT: Vehicle safety is always a concern in our industry. What should operators know about today's motorcoaches? Pantuso: Safety is very much at the top of our list. In fact, the mandatory lap/shoul- der seatbelt law goes into effect in No- vember 2016 for new motorcoaches. For years, many manufacturers have already equipped their coaches with seatbelts. There also are a number of other man- dates in the MAP-21 act (Move Ahead For Progress in the 21st Century Act, signed by President Obama in 2012) about re- designing windows and roof structures to make them safer in case of a rollover, and potentially requiring better stabil- ity control and fre suppression systems which already are being added into new coaches. All this technology is making an already safe bus even safer. • • • • • LCT: What other improvements are you seeing in the industry? Pantuso: We're seeing more focus on higher-end motorcoach service being offered, which ties in somewhat to the limousine industry. For example, the stan- dard two-and-two row seat confguration is changing to two-and-one seat rows to allow for larger seats, and different class- es of service include attendants onboard providing beverage and snack service. It's a new stratifcation of service where the cost goes up from say a basic service up to top-end seating and a galley with food and beverage — all designed to attract a new customer base that otherwise would not use a motorcoach for transportation. • • • • • LCT: With our national infrastructure in serious need of repair, what is the ABA doing on behalf of the industry to secure funding to repair roads, bridges and highways? Pantuso: It's a top priority. The trans- portation bill expires in May and I be- Pantuso and ABA leaders meet regularly with U.S. Congressional repre- sentatives, such as this 2014 meeting with Rep. Bill Schuster, R-Penn., the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. TRENDS:TARGETING BUSINESS TRAVELERS Emerging motorcoach companies are targeting business travelers by offering city-to-city service, and upscale comfort amenities that are an alternative to flying. A new company, Vonlane, launched a first-class bus operation from Austin to Dallas that has only 16 seats, including Wi-Fi, outlets, and an onboard attendant serving snacks and drinks, according to a 2015 study by DePaul University titled "Adding on Amenities, Broaden- ing the Base." The service aims to attract business travelers who fly that route daily. The custom-built coaches also feature a private six-seat board- room and operate from downtown curbside locations instead of bus terminals. The company charges $100 per one-way trip. It recently started Dallas to Houston service. Another company, Royal Sprinter, of- fers luxury business class motorcoach- es in the busy Northeast New York to Washington corridor. The custom motor- coaches are equipped with only eight leather reclining seats; small couches, audio/video, TVs with sports and mov- ies; and snacks and beverages. Datapoints: Motorcoach Industry Growing According to a study released by the American Bus Association Foun- dation, the U.S. and Canadian motorcoach industry continues to show steady, solid growth as one of the most flexible, cost-effective and environmentally efficient modes of transportation. Motorcoach passenger trips grew by 1.7% in 2012, continuing a trend of nearly 6% growth in the last three years. Total passenger trips increased to nearly 640 million as compared to 736 million enplanements on domestic air carriers and 31 million passengers for Amtrak.

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