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Buses Mean Business

Bus and coach operators are upping amenities in an effort to attract business travellers.

George Gurba knew there must be a better way. Four years ago, the controller of Alberta-based publishing house JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group, noticed a lot of wasted time and money on employee business travel to and from their Edmonton and Calgary offices. Individual employees in separate vehicles were making up to 80 round trips per year, which took six hours of total travel time for each excursion.

“It was an unproductive use of time and an unnecessary risk,” Gurba says, referring to unpredictable weather and road conditions. So he did something out of the ordinary: he called a local bus company to inquire about purchasing a block of tickets.

Historically, buses have been ignored as an option for business travellers. After all, “bussing it” comes with baggage: at best it’s for students and at worst for “the unwashed” (as printed in the comments section of a September 2010 USA Today article titled, BoltBus, RedCoach, other bus lines go for business travelers).

But that’s all changing says Toronto-based Ann Fairley. The vice-president of Motor Coach Canada, a national association representing motor coach and bus operators, has noticed American bus companies elbowing into the business travel market with successful results. And the same trend is starting to happen here in Canada, adds Fairley, although “on a slower, smaller scale.”

What’s driving the trend? On-board business amenities. Red Arrow Motor Coach of Calgary, the company Gurba is now using, is essentially a “mobile office,” says John Stepovy, general manager. “All of our seating is comparable to airline business class, we have USB connections at every seat plus complimentary snacks and beverages. On a couple of our brand new coaches we have an on-board data centre where you can print reports so they are ready when you get to your destination.”

It was a no-brainer for Gurba: productivity, added safety with a professional driver behind the wheel and all at the right the price—a block of bus tickets “costs half as much” compared to paying out mileage he says.

Red Arrow is not the only Canadian coach company to up the amenities. In 2009 Canada Coach (of the StageCoach Group) invested $16 million in 15 double deckers, each equipped with 81 reclining seats and Wi-Fi. Called MegaBus, it’s a line service that operates routes in and around Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls and Buffalo, including the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Cost-effective, convenient and office-style amenities. There’s only one thing left: squashing the stigma. “More and more coach companies are modernizing to address the problem. It will take time but it will be overcome,” says Red Arrow’s Stepovy. Adds Gurba, “One of our executive members who was initially reluctant to use the bus, later told me he found it a ‘relaxing and an effective use of time.’”  

The Better Way?
CharterBusConnect.com is a comprehensive listing of buses, motor coaches, shuttle buses, entertainer coaches and limos. Get a quote from up to 10 companies and read customer reviews.

Cost Comparison
One-day coach charter rental, Edmonton to Calgary for a group of 36: $2,000.
Airfare from Edmonton to Calgary for a group of 36: $10,800 (approximately)

Green Machine
On average, a motor coach emits 60% less C02 into the air than a standard mid-sized car, 54% less than a passenger train and 86% less than a commercial airliner. ca.megabus.com/omca.com.

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