MassDOT BusPlus+ equips private operators for regional service

Seven New England companies receive 31 MCI Commuter Coaches
By David Hubbard


The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), Boston, MA, announced in September its mission to increase the options for intercity and commuter transportation options across the Commonwealth and all of New England. The solution is BusPlus+, an innovative public-private partnership with seven leading motorcoach companies throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

“BusPlus+ helps MassDOT deliver on the promise of improved customer service and expanded regional transportation,” says MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey. “It does so while smartly enhancing our partnerships with intercity and commuter transit providers.”

With funding through an $18.1 million federally-funded competitive grant, MassDOT is providing 31 2014 MCI Commuter Coaches to facilitate an increase in regional bus service.

“It only made sense to look at the BusPlus+ program on a multi-state, regional level,” says Kyle J. Emge, manager, Capital Programs & Operations, MassDOT Rail and Transit Division. “Working with the private operators made sense, as they already operate a well-run regional network, and provide an efficient method for delivering new intercity and commuter services.”

These operators will provide new fixed-route service and be responsible for all coach maintenance and operating costs.

“I am proud of the public policy makers and staff that have the vision to recognize and support the value of the services we provide even though we are not under their direct control,” says Chris Anzuoni, vice president, Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway. “Government transportation officials do a disservice to the public by leaving our mode of transportation out of planning solutions.”

MassDOT Transit Division Administrator and MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott says this service increase in Massachusetts and across New England through this partnership provides a win for regional transit riders and creates new incentive for private carriers to increase their service.

Motor Coach Industries (MCI), Des Plaines, IL, will deliver 12 coaches to Peter Pan, Springfield, MA; seven to DATTCO, New Britain, CT; five to Plymouth & Brockton, Plymouth, MA; two to Bloom Bus Lines, Taunton, MA; two to Coach Company, Plaistow, NH, and Greyhound Lines, Boston, Mass.; and one coach to Yankee Line, Boston, MA. MCI expects to deliver the new commuter coaches later this year or early 2014.

“We applaud MassDOT’s vision for its new BusPlus+ program,” said Patrick Scully, MCI executive vice president, Sales and Marketing. “The Department stands as an example of what can be accomplished when public and private concerns come together with common objectives — advancing public transportation, attracting new riders, defeating traffic congestion and improving air quality.”

MassDOT says the BusPlus+ partnership involves coordination among all New England state transportation departments and New York. The regional service improvements provided through the new service will include the creation of new routes, addition of stops to existing routes, extension of existing routes, and increased route frequency.

MassDOT prepared a Request for Response (RFR) for new over-the-road coaches and conducted an open, competitive and fair procurement process to acquire the newest and safest motorcoaches on the market. Paul Kaufmann, a technical consultant with STV, Inc., Boston, MA, assisted MassDOT with certain aspects of the procurement process.

“We selected MCI as the winning bid,” Emge says. “MassDOT and our private sector partners are very happy to be working with MCI.”

The MCI coaches will offer additional comfort with ergonomically designed Kiel seats and three-point passenger seatbelts for 51 passengers, as well as optional Wi-Fi and power outlets to charge digital devices. The BusPlus+ coaches will carry the private operator’s logo on the vehicle’s exterior with the interior standardized to MassDOT specifications.

The participating carriers offered their reasons for MassDOT selecting them to receive the MCI coaches and implement the service.

MassDOT chose Motor Coach Industries to deliver the commuter coaches for BusPlus+.
MassDOT chose Motor Coach Industries to deliver the commuter coaches for BusPlus+.

Peter Pan Bus Lines and Coach Company cited their fixed-routes services that offer the only available public transportation.
DATTCO believes it “runs a tight ship” and is in the program for its willingness to work with the state toward a common goal in accordance with all state and federal guidelines.

In its nearly 100 years of service, Greyhound has proven its dedication to leading the way in intercity bus transportation. By both continuing and extending our service in New England, Greyhound is able to bring service to smaller population communities.

Each of the companies has its own game plan for the BusPlus+ service; typically rotating a mix of older and newer model coaches through the BusPlus+ routes.

According to spokesperson Alexandra Pedrini, Greyhound Lines will continue serving Springfield, MA, and White River Junction, VT, and surrounding communities, while adding two weekend schedules to connect passengers with other cities in New England and the North American Greyhound network.
Peter Pan will utilize the new coaches primarily on routes throughout Massachusetts and the region from Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts to Boston, Cape Cod to Providence, RI, and throughout Western Massachusetts.

Plymouth & Brockton will see that all riders on all routes experience a mix of both the older and newer coaches by rotating the new MCI commuter coaches throughout its fixed route systems.

Coach Company is replacing two older coaches with its new MCIs, making eight daily trips between Boston and the north shore.

Five of the DATTCO coaches will replace coaches currently running. The two additional units will run the Blackstone Valley Corridor and help cover additional runs, including service to UMass Dartmouth.

“The Bus Plus program is a great start to bolster the public private transportation infrastructure,” says Coach Company President Benton Smith. “Without this program, the private carriers would not be able to serve the public’s needs with quality equipment and increased service options.”