Peter Pan stays forever young

A new look to the new MCI coaches trims off the years

By David Hubbard

Staying true to the storybook character that inspired its name, Peter Pan Bus Lines, Springfield, MA, refuses to age. Though a company decidedly mature at age 76, its president Peter A. Picknelly firmly believes continual innovation keeps Peter Pan Bus Lines young at heart.

Coincidently, the well-seasoned company shares the same anniversary year as Motor Coach Industries (MCI), also renowned for its longevity and durable products. Both say they do all they can to sustain a fresh approach for their respective clientele.

Peter Pan says much of the effort involves always staying abreast of the newest motorcoach models, which included its purchase of the first available MCI J4500s in 2001 when it took delivery of 12 of the company’s newest model. Peter Pan has purchased MCI vehicles since 1974 and was the first operator to order MCI coaches with wheelchair lifts.

The most recent order of 30 MCI coaches — a mix of J4500 and D4505 models — coincides with the major effort to once again rebrand the longstanding company.

Streamlined graphics

The latest treatment features a refreshed color palette and streamlined graphics. The newly customized signature interior shows further enhancements through sculpted seats with three-point seat belts with fabrics woven exclusively for the operator. The coaches also provide, power outlets, Wi-Fi connectivity and wide flat-screen TV monitors.

MCI coaches offer two choices of clean-diesel engine technology. The standard configuration offers the Cummins ISM 10.8-liter, coupled to a ZF-ASTronic 12-speed transmission. As an option, a Detroit Diesel Series 60 DDEC VI with Jacobs® engine brake fits with the Allison B500 6-speed automatic transmission.

Electronic Stability Control is included in the standard safety and performance package, along with Smartwave tire pressure monitoring and Amerex fire suppression system that warns the driver of excess heat and suppresses the flames before they spread.

Curbside hostess table

Also new for 2010, MCI says the J4500 and E4500 can be outfitted with a curbside hostess table, and, as always, customers can choose from a variety of new seating with comfier footrests. Side marker lights now remain illuminated during daylight hours, raising coach visibility and imparting an extra dash of elegance, according to MCI

Peter Pan operates a fleet of 250 coaches averaging six and a half years in age. Over the next few years the company plans to continue updating the entire fleet with the new graphics and update to the interior cabins.

“This represents another giant step for this company,” says Bruce Westcott, vice president of business development for Peter Pan Enterprises. “Peter Pan understands the need to stay flexible and be able to change with the times. Our customers want comfort and all of the current technology, while and we want our identity and message to reflect the many virtues of luxury motor coach travel.”

Westcott says the company reviewed no less than 15 versions of coach graphics and narrowed its choice to three that it tested with key customers.

“Their response to our new look was overwhelmingly favorable,” says Westcott.  “Customer input also determined our changes and upgrades to the coach interior that give the cabin a more modern flair.

Demographic shifts in ridership

The company says demographic shifts in ridership have driven this major rebranding. Peter Pan reported its ridership reached 140,000 in November over Thanksgiving weekend, mostly students and professionals.

“We want the new image to communicate motor coach travel is green and a much nicer experience than what people might expect,” says Westcott. “In fact we are sending the new buses on a road show to colleges and corporate customers, and we will employ a multimedia approach to publicize the new look, amenities and safety features.”

“MCI always comes through for us,” says Picknelly. “The company is responsive with its resources and flexibility to create a coach for us the way we want it, and with quality that we expect to stand the test of time.”

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MCI showcased the new Peter Pan J4500 at the ABA Marketplace in January at Gaylord National Harbor, MD.

“We appreciate our longstanding relationship with Peter Pan Bus Lines for how the company counts on MCI models for looks, amenities and dependability,” says MCI President and CEO Tom Sorrells. “We are very gratified to have once again worked so closely with key staff to fulfill the requirements of their trend-setting initiatives.”

No tradition left behind

In its 76-year history Peter Pan Bus Lines perpetuates company traditions it says will never change. Each coach will continue to carry a name associated with the Peter Pan story, or for a driver who has achieved a record of three million accident-free miles.

“We currently have three coaches named after our drivers in three-million mile accident-free category,” says Westcott.  “That speaks volumes for our safety training and policies.”

Peter Pan supports its community and its attractions in and around Springfield. To help the National Basketball Association (NBA) Hall of Fame celebrate its 50th anniversary, Peter Pan has fitted a J4500 with a graphic that publicizes the milestone. Used in regular route service, the coach helps raise public awareness for the NBA Hall of Fame. Coincidently, the 2009 Hall of Fame inductees include Michael Jordan who once owned an MCI 102DL3 during his stint as a minor league baseball player.

Peter Pan is the largest privately owned bus company in the U.S., operating premier regular scheduled service throughout the Northeastern corridor.  Now in third generation leadership by the founding Picknelly family, the executive team includes in addition to President and CEO Peter A. Picknelly, Melissa Picknelly, vice president of Peter Pan Show Bus and Tom Picknelly, senior vice-president of maintenance.

The company transports more than three million passengers a year and logs more than 25 million miles annually and operates nationwide charter and tour services.