Coach Canada rolls on with renewed vision
New leadership and Megabus point the way
By Glenn Swain
Drawing on its history of providing reliable transportation for more 50 years, Coach Canada Peterborough, ON, Canada, is pushing into 2011 with a new leader who is fully focused on Megabus.
Coach Canada and Coach USA are subsidiaries of the Stagecoach Group based in England. With operations in the United Kingdom and North America it is one of the world’s largest bus, coach and rail groups. The Stagecoach Group, which took ownership of Coach Canada in 1999, is a Scottish-based leading global transportation company. Coach Canada and Coach USA own over 25 local companies in North America that operate scheduled bus routes, motorcoach tours, charters, and city sightseeing tours. While owned by Coach USA or Coach Canada, these locally-managed companies operate independently to meet the specific needs of their respective communities. There are four companies that fall under the Coach Canada brand name: Trentway-Wagar, Gray Line Montreal Sightseeing, Autocar Connaisseur and Century Airlines, a Canadian shuttle service in the Toronto area.
Coach Canada provides safe and reliable scheduled bus service in Southeastern Ontario and Southern Quebec. Connections with third-party carriers extend service to New York City and other major North American locations. Professional charter service is also offered to groups of any size. The company’s Gray Line Montreal division operates sightseeing and educational tours of New York to tourists and residents alike.
Sister company Coach USA provides similar scheduled bus routes, group and individual tours, fun city sightseeing tours and first-class charter service.
Changes at the helm
After 51 years of service Coach Canada President and company cornerstone Jim Devlin announced his retirement in September. He joined the operation in 1959 when it went by Trentway-Wagar Inc. and operated with just three school buses. Devlin held many positions throughout the company and stepped up as president of Trentway Tours in 1965 and when the company became Trentway-Wagar in 1976. Under his leadership, the company transitioned into one of top motorcoach organizations in North America.
Taking the reins is Don Carmichael, who served as senior vice president. While he says he accepts the fact he has some big shoes to fill with Devlin’s departure, Carmichael brings 42 years of transportation experience to his new position. He worked closely with Devlin from 1993 to 2000. All at Coach Canada say the shift from Devlin to Carmichael has been seamless.
“Our senior executives are reasonably young, but they have many years of experience,” says Devlin. “Don is inheriting a good team.”
“A lot of the players are still here, with good professional and management teams,” Carmichael says. “That has made the transition a lot easier.”
Carmichael adds that he learned to focus on good employee relations and good labor relations from working with Devlin. His primary focus is to stay abreast of governmental regulations, which are critical for a company that services both Canada and the U.S.
Throughout the years Coach Canada has expanded to over 400 fleet vehicles that serve Ontario and Quebec and employs 900 people.
Seventy-five percent of Coach Canada’s coaches are MCIs, and have solely been the company’s fleet since 2004. Trentway-Wagar purchased its first new MCI coach in 1964. Since then, Coach Canada and MCI have enjoyed a close and long-lasting relationship.
“We’ve just never stopped buying the MCI product,” says Devlin, “and the company has always served us well.
The company operates a state-of-the-art-fleet of 47-, 55- and 56-seat motorcoaches, along with 21- 24-, 26-, 30- and 33-seat minibuses and executive motorcoaches, open top double-deckers and vans. School buses are available at other select locations.
The major focus for Coach Canada is to further expand the popular inter-city budget coach service Megabus, which Stagecoach Group first established in England in 2003.
While the majority of Coach Canada vehicles are used for charters and long distance tours, eight MCI vehicles are in service on the Megabus side, such as the company’s Toronto to St. Catharines route.
“Megabus has been a service that we have operated some 26 million miles and carried over six million passengers during that period of time,” Carmichael says. “We’re going to look at more Megabus expansion not only in Canada but in the U.S as well.”
The Megabus concept launched in Chicago in 2006 and quickly expanded a year later. The New York City hub began operations in 2008, serving more than 10 million passengers in the Midwest and northeastern states.
In August 2009 Megabus broke into Canada with a $16 million investment to begin service between Toronto, Kingston and Montreal. Megabus.com offers cut-rate trips on its double-decker buses between Toronto and cities in New York State, including New York City, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.
The Megabus concept is catching on. North American research shows that 90 percent of customers have used Megabus as an alternative to their car, train, or a plane. Another 60 percent are former car users, while 19 percent previously travelled with an airline and 11 percent used a train.
A look to the future
With continuity throughout the company, Coach Canada heads into 2011 on solid footing. Carmichael says he plans to operate in an ever-expanding marketplace. “Hopefully, we can introduce some new Megabus routes that customers can take advantage of,” he says.
“Some are in the planning stages right now. This will be one of our primary focuses, and looking at some contract opportunities with some of the transit agencies.” BR