Halfway Between a Mini-bus And a Motorcoach

Posted on July 28, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

LOTS OF LEGROOM N’ BLACK LEATHER: A Virginia operator goes for a new niche in the bus market that wants luxury service and amenities without the size and expense of a big bus.

RICHMOND, Va. — JAMES LIMOUSINE recently bought a 36-foot, 36 passenger “mid-coach” that will be fully stocked with luxury amenities and seating to accommodate sports teams and corporate road shows alike.

Operator Randy Allen took delivery of the new CAIO G3400 motorcoach from Colonial Equipment Co. aka THE BUS PLACE of Monrovia, Md., in July. CAIO is a Brazilian bus maker.

Allen intends to upfit the smaller motorcoach with a host of amenities designed to give it more of a living room feel: luxury black leather forward-facing seats with high-backs and wrap-around headrests; extra four-inches of legroom at each seat compared to a typical motorcoach; full fold-out airline-style tray tables; extensive WiFi with enough bandwidth for universal Internet access onboard; satellite TV service; power outlets in each seating row; and three-point seatbelts.

“This will not look like a typical bus on the inside,” Allen said.

The G3400 also features a Cummins 280 HP ISB Engine, and an Allison 300 5-Speed Transmission. This unit includes six audio visual monitor systems and 276 cubic feet of luggage storage space.

Allen projects the mid-motorcoach will be in service by September. It will be the first motorcoach-style bus for James Limousine, which so far has three mini-buses in its 23-vehicle fleet based in Virginia’s state capital.

The diesel engine bus, which on average costs about 25-40% below the price of a typical 55-passenger motorcoach, will use 50% less fuel and cost about 10% less to rent than a typical big bus. Its fuel economy fits the green travel programs of many colleges and universities, Allen said.

Allen aims to market the bus to several key client groups: sports teams (college, professional, youth); hotels; corporate group travel; other bus companies; and church groups.

“In talking to college players and coaches who rode the bus a lot, they came up with some specs that I wanted to use for the bus,” Allen said. “This will be a niche vehicle for groups large enough to want a motorcoach but not large enough to need a full size 55-passenger motor coach. This will offer a better ride and amenities than available in mini coaches.”

One of the biggest complaints about motorcoaches so far is that many do not provide enough Wi-Fi bandwidth for multiple laptop users, Allen said. As a result, Allen is making sure the James Limousine “mid-coach” will have enough hardware installed to accommodate iPods and wireless laptops.

“We’re not competing with the full-size motorcoach but instead offering teams a smaller vehicle at a lower price,” said Allen, whose company is up 20% in revenues this year compared to 2009. “We have the same if not better amenities than you have on full-size buses.”

— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

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