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As commutes get longer, motorcoach operators are stepping in to offer a more rider friendly experience, along with getting more cars off the road.
Commuter motorcoaches can offer upscale amenities, such as refreshments and newspapers, that provide a less stressful experience when compared to the typical mass transit ride.
Smart People Moving
Bauer's IT (Intelligent Transportation), a San Francisco Bay Area-based provider of chauffeured, eco-friendly individual and group transportation, recently added two routes to its Wi-Drive! after seeing initial success with its commuter service program launched in March 2009. The service has emerged as a prime example in both the chauffeured and charter and tour industries of how operators can tap into consumer demands for saving money and gas while leaving smaller carbon footprints.
On Oct. 12, Wi-Drive! began including round-trip routes between Santa Rosa and San Francisco and between Fremont and Milpitas. The operator also received a permit to provide service to other nearby areas, including Sonoma, Sacramento, and the East Bay, covering all freeways in the area to and from San Francisco. The service is moving 6,000 commuters per day, says Gary Bauer, president/CEO.
Bauer's Wi-Drive! operates weekdays from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fares can be as low as $5 for a one-way ticket depending on location, with 10% discounts offered for monthly passes. Wi-Drive! memberships and individual passes can be bought online. A variety of payment methods, including commuter checks, are accepted. Corporate rates are usually less than $10 per person each way.
Bauer's Wi-Drive buses offer Wi-Fi, cell phone charging stations, and laptop power ports, enabling passengers to get work done en route. The fleet is also equipped with iPod docks, DirecTV, leather seats, and work tables, flat-screen LCD monitors, iPod hookups, CD and DVD systems, bike racks, and restrooms. A ride host is onboard at all times to offer food and drink service, which can be purchased onboard or pre-ordered through the Bauer's Wi Drive! online ordering system. The carrier uses a GPS tracking system that lets riders know 10 minutes in advance that the vehicle is arriving.
Bauer's also has made Wi-Drive! an easy option for employees who benefit from San Francisco's Commuter Benefits Ordinance. Enacted in January 2009, in correspondence with Federal Ordinance 132, the mandate requires all employers with more than 20 employees who work an average of 10 hours a week to offer one of three commuter benefits programs to relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution.
Commuter services are taking off, Bauer points out. Onboard Wi-Fi may be a significant selling point, with more employers realizing that they can maximize their employees' time. "The idea is that if [the] average employee generates $100 for their company, for $10 round-trip, [the employer is turning the commute into] a profit center, not a cost center."