Nothing regular about superlative service
Four Temsa TS35s serve a distinct niche for Jefferson Lines
By David Hubbard
In the time since Charlie Zelle familIn the time since Charlie Zelle family founded the company in 1919, Jefferson Lines has endeavored to connect people with their favorite destinations. The name respects the highway that once ran from Winnipeg, MB, Canada to New Orleans, LA.
Company president and CEO Charlie Zelle, formerly a New York investment banker, returned to the family business in 1987 to take over Jefferson Lines from his late father, Louie Zelle. When Greyhound Lines began dropping many of its routes 20-plus years ago, Jefferson Lines stepped in to continue with many of them. Steadily increasing ridership, the company has grown to serve 13 states, making Jefferson Lines one of the largest intercity bus systems outside of the East Coast market.
Now in its third generation, the mission to provide safe and convenient intercity coach travel that is both inviting and accessible to travelers throughout the nation’s heartland is unchanged. Nonetheless, regular scheduled service transportation in recliner seats with legroom, Wi-Fi, satellite radio and movies on the bus would give the founder pause. Ninety-three years later. the ride is cutting-edge and Jefferson Lines is a Midwest fixture. Suffice to say, Jefferson Lines is about much needed scheduled service.
According to Kevin Pursey, director of Marketing and Culture, only 5 to 7 percent of the company business involves coach charters.
“We are making every effort to connect with other transportation systems both public and private,” says Pursey. “We work to establish intermodal bus and light rail connections with the transit agencies in the cities we serve, as well as with other intercity bus companies.”
From its base in Minneapolis, MN, Jefferson Lines connects with Burlington Trailways in Des Moines, IA; with Greyhound Bus Lines in Kansas City, MO; Badger Bus in Madison, WI; and Indian Trails in Duluth, MN.
To that end, the 35-ft. Temsa TS35s Jefferson Lines recently acquired from CH Bus Sales, Minneapolis, MN, and figure prominently in the route structure. Following the successful response to its first TS35 now in service between Minneapolis and Rochester, MN, the company has taken delivery of three more and is analyzing its operations for the most appropriate routes to run these smaller motorcoaches.
The intent is to put the Temsas in service on routes that are perfect for smaller passenger loads of 30 to 35 riders. Pursey says Jefferson customers find a subtle appeal to the TS35s, which they say is not so overwhelming, and they appreciate the overall comfort and extra legroom these coaches provide.
“We certainly consider them a premium ride,” says Pursey. “Our customers see them in the same light as they would any larger coach.”
The North American TS35 is constructed on a stainless steel monocoque frame and features approximately 80 percent U.S. specifications. While the 35-ft. Temsa TS35 shares all the qualities of a larger coach and is capable of traveling any distance, Pursey says the Jefferson Lines TS35s will typically run on four-hour routes of approximately 185 miles, as opposed to the 45-ft. coaches that often set out on multiple day rotations.
Over the road coach riders in the Midwest may know Jefferson Lines for the Rocket Rider, the name it gives to its exclusive regional express coach service, developed specifically for transporting passengers from point A to point B as quickly as possible with no stops in between. The longest Rocket Rider route runs from Minneapolis to Kansas City.
Younger markets have Jefferson Lines on their radar, catching the College Connection on Fridays and Sundays for a quick trip home and back on the weekends.
“We have really stepped up our marketing of this niche service over the past several months,” says Pursey. “We now offer the College Connection on 13 college and university campuses throughout the Midwest.”
Pursey says in addition to free Wi-Fi, the College Connection owes much of its popularity to the very convenient locations for pickups and drop offs on each campus. He says while the service is predominately on Fridays and Sundays, the schedule can vary depending on location and demand.
“We offer special discounted rates for students riding the College Connection,” says Pursey. “We plan on growing this service by making this the preferred travel option for college students.”
Jefferson Lines employs 265 staff members with 150 drivers operating approximately 75 vehicles. BR