The bus industry has come under scrutiny with the recent shutdown of local discount carrier Fung Wah Bus Transportation Inc. and two deadly crashes on the West Coast. Peter A. Picknelly, chief executive of Peter Pan Bus Lines in Springfield, recently spoke to Globe correspondent Taryn Luna about bus safety, his company’s relationship with Greyhound Lines Inc., and Peter Pan’s role in a Springfield casino proposal.
How has the negative attention on the bus industry affected your business?
There’s been a positive impact. Our ridership is up in many markets. In Boston, where Fung Wah have been closed for the last couple weeks, our business has been up significantly. For too long these rogue carriers have been operating underneath the radar. The government is recognizing that now and doing the right thing.
What does Peter Pan do to ensure your buses are safe?
Every single night they are completely serviced, inspected, cleaned and we have other inspections based on miles. We have a network of garage locations throughout our service area where the buses are completely inspected. Our drivers are in strict compliance with hours of safety regulations.
Why did you begin requiring customers to have trip-specific tickets?
The industry is evolving. People now want the security of knowing that they have a reservation on a particular bus, and we’ve gravitated our model to that. Our industry is very nimble and flexible and that’s what makes us appealing.
Why do you partner with Greyhound?
So we could offer our consumers more choice in scheduling. Prior to our pooling arrangement [in 1999], we ran a 9 a.m. and they ran a 9 a.m. [Now] we’ll run a 9 a.m. and they’ll run a 9:30. We’ve coordinated our schedules to give the consumer more options. And because we’ve been able to save some miles together, we’ve been able to lower our price. Our fares are lower today than they were in 1999.
Why didn’t Greyhound and Peter Pan increase the BoltBus routes instead of creating the YO Bus line when Fung Wah was taken off the road?
We saw YO Bus as Chinatown specific. There’s great demand from people who want to go to Chinatown. YO goes from New York’s Chinatown to Chinatown in Philadelphia and to Boston now. BoltBus is city center to city center.
Will your company move to Springfield’s Union Station after the $75 million renovation is complete?
We’ve expressed an interest to move into Union Station. We want to see it happen. We need to work with the city on two things. We need to know how much the rent is, and we need to work with the city on a proper reuse of our property. The last thing Springfield needs is another vacant piece of property.
What is your relationship to Penn National Gaming?
I am partners with Penn National on bringing an $807 million casino to downtown Springfield. If we’re fortunate enough to be licensed, the casino would reuse the current Peter Pan property. Our family has been pursuing this casino opportunity in Springfield for the better part of 20 years and we believe it to be the absolute best spot in Springfield.
Will you move to Union Station if the city’s casino contract goes to MGM and not Penn National?
We need to figure out a viable reuse for this property. We’re not saying you have to have a casino, we’re saying you have to reuse this property. We believe a casino is certainly an ideal reuse.
Every CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines has been named Peter Picknelly. Were you groomed for the position since birth?
I can certainly tell you that as a youngster, I never wanted to be a Boston Red Sox player or a fireman. All I’ve every wanted to do was to work at Peter Pan and follow in the footsteps of my grandfather and father. I wake up every day and I’m a bus guy.
Do you take the bus? When was the last time?
I do. I met my wife on a Peter Pan bus in 1988. It was from Springfield to Hartford to be specific. The last time I rode the bus was a couple months ago.