BIZ POTENTIAL: Regal Limousine in New Hampshire expects the newfound niche to grow rapidly as existing customers learn of its new service.
NORTH HAMPTON, N.H. — Three weeks into a new venture, operator Paul Ford already predicts growth ahead.
Since Regal Limousine Service added a Dodge Sprinter para-transit vehicle on April 20, the company has gotten enough clients to warrant expanding the non-emergency mobility transport service, said Ford, the senior vice president of REGAL LIMOUSINE SERVICE, which serves southern New Hampshire and greater Boston.
The van, an American clone of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van, can seat two wheelchair occupants at one time along with a passenger in a regular seat, Ford said. It also has a hydraulic lift. So far, about two-thirds of Regal Limousine’s Sprinter runs have been related to medical appointments and one-third to leisure outings, such as to malls, restaurants, and airports.
“We are very encouraged,” Ford said. “We are confident it will expand. For the time being, we are keeping it central to our core market of the Sea Coast of New Hampshire.”
REGAL LIMOUSINE SERVICE, which operates a 37-vehicle fleet of luxury vehicles including stretch limousines, created a separate division for para-transit staffed with four chauffeurs specially trained in CPR and how to help wheelchair passengers enter and leave the van, Ford said.
“We bring a higher level of service because we are a chauffeured group,” Ford said. “This is within our core competency. There are nuances to it, and some things are very different from what we do. We are in the crawling changes right now.”
Regal Limousine, a 2001 LCT Operator Of The Year, is promoting the service to seniors, retirement homes, and wheelchair clients. Some clients of its regular chauffeured services started using the para-transit for friends and relatives once they learned of it, Ford said.
Rates are $35 base fee to go pick up and board a client, and then $3 for every mile traveled thereafter. Hourly clients can use the vehicle for a two-hour minimum at $60 per hour.
Ford came up with the idea after his mother was hospitalized from a fall. Although she did not have any open wounds or severe pains and her injuries were non-life threatening, the hospital transferred her to another area hospital in an ambulance, with the 45-minute ride costing $500.
“It was kind of overkill for the job,” Ford said. “It was a nice, casual ride up the road and seemed a bit much.
“We decided we could do that more low key, more professional, and at a better rate,” Ford said. “It’s a good fit for a chauffeured company; we’re in private ground transportation and the personnel have to put on a high level of service.”
Ford has heard from residents and caretakers at local retirement homes about the need for better para-transit service. “As we developed this new division, we learned that a lot of drivers in other companies were too casual in their treatment of people in their charge, and could have done it better.”
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor