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The History of Peter Pan Bus Lines

Peter C. Picknelly

Peter C. Picknelly, Founder

The company’s founder, Peter Carmine Picknelly, began his love for transportation in the early 1900’s as a chauffeur. In 1920, he went out on his own and started a small transit company called Orange Valley Bus Company in East Orange, NJ. Then, in 1925, Peter and three other Jitney operators decided to pool their resources and relocate to New England to start a larger transportation service in Hartford, CT, named . After successfully launching and establishing that company, in 1932 he sold his interest in Interstate Buses Corporation to his partners and formed his own bus company in Springfield, MA … Peter Pan Bus Lines… in 1933. Peter Pan Bus Lines got its name from our founder’s children’s favorite bedtime story, Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie.

1933 JitneyPeter Pan started with just four 1933 Buick Jitney vehicles. Peter Pan’s first route, Northampton to Boston via Stafford Springs, CT, was a circuitous route that took over 3 1/2 hours with a round trip fare of $3.50!

 

After years of battling with the State of Massachusetts, in 1940 Peter Pan finally won approval from the State to operate from Springfield direct to Boston via Route 20, cutting travel time to under 2 ½ hours.

In 1942, Peter’s younger brother, Bill Picknelly, joined the bus company; followed by Bill’s son, Carmen Picknelly, who took over the management of Peter Pan’s Maintenance Department. Today, Carmen’s son, Tom Picknelly, is our Senior Vice President of Maintenance; and Tom’s son, Joe Picknelly, the 4th generation of the Picknelly family to enter the business, is Manager of Inventory Control & Fleet Maintenance.

Peter L. Picknelly

Peter L. Picknelly, circa 1960

In 1957, when the Massachusetts Turnpike opened, the company gained authority to travel on this new express route between Springfield, MA and Boston, decreasing the travel time to less than 2 hours… as quick as the automobile and faster than the train… giving birth to the concept of affordable, convenient mass transit. During this time, the company’s routes expanded to include many more communities throughout Massachusetts.

1963 marked a milestone for Peter Pan Bus Lines as the company achieved $1 million in annual sales. At this point, Peter Pan’s fleet consisted of 28 buses.

In January of 1964, founder Peter C. Picknelly died leaving the company’s helm to his 33-year old son, Peter Louis Picknelly.

The next few years brought tremendous success and growth to Peter Pan, particularly due to the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City. Peter Pan offered “all-expense-included” tours from western Massachusetts and Connecticut to the New York World’s Fair. The tours were a phenomenal success for the newly formed Peter Pan World Travel Service, a division that brought substantial financial growth to the company.

Peter L. Picknelly, circa 1970

On April 1, 1969, the Springfield Bus Terminal opened at 1776 Main Street, the current home of Peter Pan Bus Lines. It was the first bus terminal in the United States, from which Greyhound and Trailways both operated service, and spawned the concept of intermodal transportation.

Focusing on the success created by the World’s Fair, Peter Pan continued to expand its charter and tour business throughout the 60′s and 70′s. By the end of the 1970′s, tours and charters accounted for two-thirds of the company’s overall sales.

During the 80′s, Peter Pan experienced a major expansion, acquiring over a half-dozen competing transportation companies throughout New England. In 1982, Peter Pan also established Coachbuilders, the only bus body shop in the Northeast, offering complete repairs and restorations for its own fleet as well as those of other companies. Today, Coachbuilders is the largest bus rehabilitation facility in the northeast.

In August 1985, the company purchased Trailways New England, doubling the size of its scheduled service, and bringing Peter Pan into New York City for the first time. Today, New York City continues to remain the company’s #1 destination city. At this time, Peter Pan had office and garage locations in Boston and Central Connecticut as well as Springfield, MA, and over 500 employees and 150 buses. The company also partnered in charter bus operations in Atlantic City, NJ and West Palm Beach, FL.

Because of the company’s exemplary service and safety, Peter Pan was the only bus company in the country selected to transport then-1992 Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his running mate, Al Gore, for the “First 1,000 Miles” of their whistle-stop tour from the New York City Democratic Convention to the American heartland. This tour gave Peter Pan national media coverage, and a float featuring a Peter Pan motorcoach was included in the Inaugural parade in Washington, DC. Peter Pan buses continue to be selected for some of the most high-profile National events in the country such as the wedding of Chelsea Clinton, and Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral (to name a few). Because we continue to maintain the industry’s highest safety rating, we also transport many college and major league sports teams in the northeast.

In the 1990’s, Peter Pan acquired American Coach Lines in Washington, DC, opening an office and maintenance facility in our Nation’s capital, and expanding our scheduled service to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and other mid-Atlantic cities. This expansion in the 1990′s brought significant competition and intense “fare wars” between Peter Pan and Greyhound. Fares actually dropped as low as $5.00 between New York City and DC. This rivalry led to an alliance between Peter Pan and Greyhound in 1999 … the industry’s largest business alliance … that continues today.

Peter L. Picknelly, Chairman Until 2004


In 2000, Peter L. Picknelly was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award … the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs.

In 2001, Peter Pan opened a major office and maintenance facility in Secaucus, NJ, servicing its fleet as well as other bus company fleets in the Metro New York area.

In 2003, the company once again doubled in size by acquiring the New England division of Coach USA companies including Arrow Lines, Boston Coach and Bonanza Bus Lines, bringing the company’s fleet to over 300 vehicles and sales to over $2 million per week.

 

In 2005, Peter Pan purchased the Connecticut-based tour company, ShowBus Tours, expanding our offerings to include Broadway shows as well as Yankees and Red Sox baseball games and other popular ticketed events.

In 2007, Peter Pan and Greyhound cooperatively began a new bus service, BoltBus, to provide “city center to city center” service using internet-based sales and non-terminal pick-up locations. BoltBus vehicles feature WiFi, electrical plug-ins, and increased leg room. Today, BoltBus is one of the fastest growing and most successful bus companies in the United States.

In 2011, Peter Pan and Greyhound announced their new Northeast Express service … the industry’s only “first class” premium bus service that provides non-stop, direct service with a guaranteed seat for every customer. Customers ride on modern buses with free wifi, power outlets, extra leg room and specially designed interiors.  Express provides private waiting areas in terminals where Guest Specialists greet passengers and provide an extra level of service.  Express customers can take advantage of yield managed prices offered online.

In December 2012, Peter Pan and Greyhound Lines, Inc. initiated YO! Bus, an express bus service that operates from Chinatown-to-Chinatown between major cities.  The name YO! is derived from the pronunciation of the Chinese word that means “to protect.”  With environmentally friendly buses and the most highly-trained, professional drivers in the industry behind the wheel, passengers  experience a safe, affordable, convenient  and relaxing  ride … arriving well-rested and on time.

Today, Peter Pan is one of the largest privately owned intercity bus companies in the United States with the most modern fleet of buses numbering 250 vehicles. Our new state-of-the-art, custom designed motorcoaches have changed bus travel forever. Peter Pan’s 750 employees include the best drivers in the industry. Our highly-trained drivers have been recognized nationally for their achievements in safety … see our section on “Safety & Drivers” to meet some of our award-winning One-, Two- and Three-Million Mile drivers! Peter Pan coaches travel over 25 million miles a year: The equivalent of nearly 100 trips to the moon annually… or one of our buses going around the world three times every day!

In recent years, the company has ventured into a variety of other industries:
Camfour – wholesale sporting goods distributors
Hill Country – wholesale sporting goods distributors
Belt Technologies – high performance conveyor belt systems
Century Woodworking – fine custom windows, doors and millwork
Architectural Windows & Doors – design center for fine woodworking
OPAL Real Estate Group – property development and property management
Duval Precision Grinding – state-of-the-art precision grinding services
• PMP Air – private jet services

Other Picknelly family businesses include real estate holdings and hotel operations.

Peter Pan remains a family-owned business, operating under the guidance of current president, Peter A. Picknelly. Our values and mission also remain the same:

“We connect our customers with the people, places and services that enhance the quality and enjoyment of their lives by providing equipment, technology, professional knowledge and experience required to manage and operate safe, comfortable and cost efficient ground transportation systems.”

Interstate Buses Corporation continued to flourish and expand. In the 1970’s, it changed its name to Bonanza Bus Lines. Peter Pan acquired Bonanza Bus Lines in 2003.