The History of Peter Pan Bus Lines

Founder, Peter C. Picknelly

Founder, Peter C. Picknelly

Peter Pan’s founder, Peter Carmine Picknelly, emigrated from Italy with his family when he was just 7 years old, settling in East Orange, NJ. His love for transportation began when he became a private chauffeur in the early 1900’s. In 1920, he ventured out on his own to start his first small transit company, Orange Valley Bus Company, in East Orange, NJ. Five years later, Peter and three other jitney operators pooled their resources, relocated to New England and opened a larger transportation service in Hartford, CT, named Interstate Busses Corporation*. Once this company was successfully established, Peter sold his interest in Interstate Busses to his partners in 1932, and opened his own independent bus line in Springfield, MA in the spring of 1933. He named his new company “Peter Pan Bus Lines” after his children’s favorite bedtime story, “Peter Pan” by Sir James M. Barrie.

Peter Pan’s original fleet consisted of four 1933 Buick jitney vehicles, and offered service between Northampton and Boston via Stafford Springs, CT, a roundabout route that took over 3½ hours with a round-trip fare of $3.50 (quite the bargain!) By 1940, Peter Pan finally won approval from the State of Massachusetts to operate from Springfield, MA direct to Boston along Route 20, cutting the travel time to a more manageable 2½ hours.

During the 1940’s, more family members moved from NJ to help Peter expand his business, including his brother Bill, the first maintenance garage supervisor, followed by Bill’s son Carmen, who joined Peter Pan after World War II. Today, Carmen’s son Tom serves as Senior Vice President, supervising garage locations in MA, CT, RI, MD and the Greater NY area, while the 4th generation of the Picknelly family to enter the business, Tom’s son Joe, is Peter Pan’s Fleet Manager.

Peter L. Picknelly circa 1960

ourstory-4As the years passed, with the opening of the Massachusetts Turnpike, the company expanded its service along this new express route between the Berkshires in the west to cities and towns in the eastern part of the state, effectively decreasing the travel time between Springfield and Boston to less than two hours….as quick as the automobile and faster than the train….a much more affordable, convenient and efficient mode of transportation for the traveling public.

By 1963, Peter Pan experienced its first year achieving $1 million dollars in sales, with an expanded route service and a fleet of 28 vehicles. In January, 1964, upon the death of founder Peter C. Picknelly, the company helm was passed on to his then-33-year-old son, Peter Louis Picknelly. An innovative and energetic “bus guy,” Peter L. recognized the great opportunity that came with the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City, and Peter Pan offered all–expenses-included one-day tours to the Fair. This was a phenomenal success for his newly-formed Peter Pan World Travel Service, a travel and tour division that proved to be a great financial asset to Peter Pan overall.

In order to house his growing operations, in 1969, Peter L. constructed the current bus terminal in Springfield, MA, which was also the first terminal in the United States to include both Greyhound and Trailways service under one roof, spawning the modern day concept of intermodal transportation. (This terminal was later renamed the “Peter L. Picknelly Transportation Center” in his honor in 2005). Encouraged by the success of the World’s Fair tour packages, Peter Pan continued to expand its charter and tour offerings throughout the 1970s and 1980s, which at one point accounted for two-thirds of the company’s overall sales.

Peter Pan continued to grow throughout the 1980s, acquiring over a half-dozen transportation companies throughout New England. In 1982, Peter Pan established Coachbuilders, the only bus body shop in the Northeast, which offers complete repair and restoration services for its own as well as outside company fleets – the largest bus rehabilitation facility in the Northeast today. In 1985, Peter Pan effectively doubled its scheduled service offerings with the acquisition of Trailways New England, which allowed Peter Pan to expand service into the New York City market for the first time….the #1 destination city to this day. By the end of the 1980s, Peter Pan had office and garage locations in Boston, Central CT and Springfield – and over 500 employees and 150 buses in the fleet.

With a firmly-established, excellent reputation for great service as well as safety, Peter Pan was selected to transport then-1992 Presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his running mate Al Gore for the “First 1,000 Miles” of their historic whistle-stop bus tour from the convention in New York City to the American heartland. This gave Peter Pan national media coverage, and a float featuring a Peter Pan bus was included in the Inaugural Parade in Washington, DC. Peter Pan continues to be selected as the transportation carrier for many high-profile events, such as Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral – and our VIP Limocoach served on the 2016 campaign trail for Senator Bernie Sanders.

During the 1990’s, Peter Pan acquired American Coach Lines in Washington, DC, opened an office and maintenance facility in our Nation’s capital, and further expanded our service to Washington DC, Baltimore,

Philadelphia and other mid-Atlantic cities. At one time, significant competition from the larger Greyhound Lines led to “fare wars” between the two companies, where Peter Pan and Greyhound actually dropped the New York to DC fare to as low as $5.00 – truly a boon to the consumer! Eventually, a business alliance formed which gave Peter Pan more exposure to the traveling public along the entire Northeast corridor – the busiest and most populated travel area in the United States.

The Millennium brought even more success and growth to Peter Pan – in 2000, its then-Chairman Peter L. Picknelly was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs.

Peter L. Picknelly, Chairman until 2004

In 2001, the company opened a major office and maintenance facility in Secaucus, NJ, effectively servicing its fleet as well as buses for other transportation companies in the metropolitan New York area.

By 2003, Peter Pan again doubled in size with the acquisition of the New England division of Coach USA, incorporating Arrow Lines, Boston Coach and Bonanza Bus Lines, thereby expanding the company’s fleet to over 300 coaches, with sales of over $2 million dollars per week. In 2005, ShowBus Tours was added, enabling Peter Pan to offer service and tickets to Broadway shows, Yankees and Red Sox baseball games, as well as other popular ticketed events.

Peter Louis Picknelly passed away in 2004, and his son Peter A. Picknelly assumed the reins of the company, leading Peter Pan to offer even more improved and innovative services to its customers. The addition of the first fire suppression units on intercity buses was a huge boon to safer travel. The introduction of free WiFi, power outlets and improved seating featuring more legroom, were much appreciated amenities offering greater comfort and convenience to Peter Pan’s passengers.

ourstory-13Peter Pan is constantly striving to improve the customer experience of intercity bus travel, through advances in technology and expansion of the route system. Recent innovations include the gradual introduction of paperless ticketing, allowing passengers to purchase tickets online, with the capability of having bus-side scanning on certain routes – soon to be available on all Peter Pan routes system-wide. In the summer of 2016, the company added expanded service between Boston, MA and Hyannis/points on Cape Cod – which proved to be very popular with the traveling public.

Peter Pan’s highly trained drivers have been recognized nationally for their achievements in safety….see our section on “Safety & Drivers” to meet some of our One-Two-Three and Four Million Mile drivers, who have achieved over 12, 24, 36, and 48  years of safe driving respectively. (One million miles equates to 12 years of accident-free driving). We are very proud to have the only driver in the United States to have ever achieved 48 years/Four Million Miles of accident-free driving in his career – Mr. Edward Hope. Today, Peter Pan’s 300+ coaches travel over 25 million miles every year, or the equivalent of nearly 100 trips to the moon annually….translating to one of our buses traveling around the world 3 times every day!

In the ensuing years, Peter A. has ventured out to expand the family business interests to include:

  • Camfour – a wholesale sporting goods distribution company
  • Hill Country – a wholesale sporting goods distributor, based in Texas
  • Belt Technologies – high performance conveyor belt systems
  • Century Woodworking
  • Architectural Windows & Doors
  • Duval Precision Grinding

Other Picknelly family businesses include real estate holdings and hotel and restaurant operations, such as:

  • PMP Air – provides private executive jet services
  • OPAL Real Estate Group – Property Development and Management
  • The Student Prince/The Fort, a 80-year-old landmark German-American restaurant

Since its inception, Peter Pan has remained a family-owned and operated business, and under the leadership of its current Chairman, Peter A. Picknelly, adheres to the same values and mission envisioned by its founder in 1933:

“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 Busses 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.

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.