The History of Peter Pan Bus Lines

When seven-year-old Peter Carmine Picknelly traveled from Italy with his family and settled in New Jersey, little did he know that travel would become the Picknelly family’s life and legacy. Now four generations later, the Picknelly family still owns and operates Peter Pan Bus Lines, one of the largest privately-owned bus companies in the United States.

Peter C. Picknelly started his transportation career as a private chauffeur in the early 1900s. In 1920, he set out on his own to start his first small transit company: Orange Valley Bus Company of East Orange, NJ. That was just the beginning. 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. In 1932, Peter sold his interest in Interstate Busses to his partners, 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 more than 3.5 hours with a round-trip fare of $3.50. It was quite the bargain. By 1940, Peter Pan won approval from the State of Massachusetts to operate from Springfield, MA directly to Boston via Route 20, cutting the travel time to a more managable 2.5 hours.

Peter Pan Bus Lines grew rapidly and during the 1940s more family members relocated from NJ to MA to help expand Peter’s business. Peter’s brother Bill Picknelly became the first maintenance garage supervisor. Bill’s son Carmen Picknelly joined Peter Pan after World War II. Today, Carmen’s son Tom Picknelly serves as Senior Vice President and he supervises Peter Pan garages in MA, CT, RI, MD, PA and the Metro NY area. And now, the fourth generation of the Picknelly family has climbed aboard … Tom’s son Joe Picknelly, Peter Pan’s Fleet Manager.

The opening of the Massachusetts Turnpike in 1957 allowed Peter Pan to expand bus service between Springfield and Boston by reducing travel time to only two hours. Passengers realized that the bus was as quick as an automobile and faster than a train. It was also more affordable, convenient and soon became the most efficient mode of public transportation for travelers. In 1963, Peter Pan’s sales soared to $1 million dollars, service was expanded, and a fleet of 28 buses were on the road.

The journey ended for Peter C. Picknelly in January of 1964. Peter Pan’s founder died and the company’s leadership was passed on to his 33-year-old son, Peter Louis Picknelly. Peter L. Picknelly was an innovative and energetic “bus guy” who had dreams of his own. He saw great opportunity ahead when he learned that the 1964-1965 World’s Fair was coming to New York City, and he created World’s Fair Tour Packages. These included an all-inclusive one-day tour of the World’s Fair.  It was a phenomenal success and became an instant financial asset for Peter Pan. That was the beginning of the first travel and tour division of the company: Peter Pan World Travel Service.

Operations grew steadily and in 1969, Peter L. made the decision to construct a bus terminal in Springfield, MA. It was Peter Pan’s first major bus terminal and the first terminal in the United States to include both Greyhound and Trailways bus service under one roof. It spawned the modern day concept of intermodal transportation.

Encouraged by the success of the World’s Fair tour packages, Peter Pan continued to expand charter and tour offerings throughout the 1970s and 1980s, which at one point accounted for two-thirds of the company’s overall profits.

In the 1980s, Peter Pan acquired more than a half-dozen transportation companies in New England. In 1982, Peter Pan established Coach Builders, the only bus body shop in the Northeast, which offered complete repair and restoration services for its own fleet and other fleets as well. Today, Coach Builders is still the largest bus rehabilitation facility in the Northeast.

In 1985, Peter Pan doubled its scheduled bus service with the acquisition of Trailways New England. The decision allowed Peter Pan to expand bus service into New York City for the first time. New York City is still Peter Pan’s number one destination today. By the end of the 1980s, Peter Pan had office and garage locations in Boston, Central CT   and Springfield MA, with more than 500 employees and 150 buses in the fleet.

Peter Pan Bus Lines has established an excellent reputation for quality service and safety through the years, and has become a trusted source of transportation for high-profile events. In 1992, Peter Pan Bus Lines was selected to transport 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 America’s Heartland. This news inspired national media coverage for Peter Pan and a Peter Pan Bus float in the Inaugural Parade in Washington, DC. Other notorious rides hosted by Peter Pan included Chelsea Clinton’s wedding and Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral. Peter Pan’s VIP Limo Coach carried Senator Bernie Sanders along his campaign trail during his 2016 presidential campaign.

During the 1990s, Peter Pan acquired American Coach Lines in Washington, DC and opened an office and maintenance facility in our nation’s capital. This move prompted further expansion of bus service to and from Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other mid-Atlantic cities. Peter Pan’s new service provoked a bit of competition with Greyhound Bus Lines, and sparked national attention to “fare wars” between the two companies. Peter Pan and Greyhound lowered the New York to DC fare to five dollars and travelers took notice. Eventually, a business alliance formed between Peter Pan and Greyhound to serve the entire Northeast corridor, which is one of the busiest and most populated travel areas in the country.

The new Millennium brought even more success and growth for Peter Pan. In 2000, Peter Pan Bus Lines’ Chairman Peter L. Picknelly was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. In 2001, the company opened new offices and a maintenance facility in Secaucus, NJ serving metro NYC.

By 2003, Peter Pan doubled in size with the acquisition of the New England division of Coach USA, which incorporated Arrow Line, Boston Coach and Bonanza Bus Lines (formerly known as Interstate Busses Corporation … ironically, Peter C. Picknelly’s original bus line). This purchase expanded Peter Pan’s fleet to more than 300 coaches, and sales topped $2 million dollars per week.

In 2004, another page was turned and a new chapter began with the sad news that Peter L. Picknelly had passed. The legend continued as the helm was passed on to Peter L.’s son, Peter A. Picknelly, the third generation leader of Peter Pan Bus Lines.

In 2005, Show Bus Tours was added to provide bus service and tickets to Broadway shows, Yankees and Red Sox baseball games, as well as many other popular ticketed events.  The Springfield Bus Terminal was proudly renamed The Peter L. Picknelly Transportation Center

Always a leader in technology, by 2008 Peter Pan was the first bus company in the United States to offer “print at home” tickets sold on the internet. Customers could buy their tickets in advance and go straight to the bus side for boarding.  No longer did they have to stand in line at a bus terminal to purchase a ticket.

Over the next several years, major inroads in “creature comforts” aboard the buses were enhanced.  New exterior graphics and a custom-designed interior featuring specially designed seats for extra leg room … new, spacious lavatories … enhanced baggage capacity …upgraded lighting … charging outlets at every seat and free Wi-Fi for passengers to use their electronic devices while traveling.

In 2015, Peter Pan expanded its presence on Cape Cod by instituting service between Boston, Logan Airport and Hyannis, MA.  In 2019, Peter Pan further expanded its Cape Cod service to include Provincetown, MA and now serves all major towns on Cape Cod.

In 2017, Peter Pan ended its longtime alliance with Greyhound and once again began traveling independently throughout the northeast and Mid-Atlantic States.

In 2018, Peter Pan opened its first ticket counter at New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. The Port Authority is the largest bus terminal in the United States and one of the busiest terminals in the world, serving 8,000 buses and 225,000 people on an average weekday and more than 65 million people a year.

Also in 2018, Peter Pan moved its corporate headquarters and bus operations to the newly renovated and historic Union Station in Springfield, MA. To celebrate this move, as well as Peter Pan’s 85th Anniversary, the City of Springfield named the bus entrance way into Union Station 1 Peter Pan Way.

Technology & Safety

Peter Pan continues to improve intercity bus travel for its customers through advances in technology and safety.

Several innovative concepts emerged in recent years, including guaranteed seating to ensure that every passenger gets a reserved seat on the bus.  Mobile boarding is now in place for all schedules allowing passengers to purchase their tickets online through Peter Pan’s website or mobile APP.  Our drivers scan tickets directly from a mobile device to make traveling by bus stress-free and paper-free.

“Locate My Bus” … Technology that works in conjunction with our onboard GPS allowing passengers, and people waiting for buses to arrive, to access the exact location of a bus in real-time, and its estimated time of arrival.

“Peter Pan Perks” … Advanced loyalty program for customers to receive reward points for discounted or free travel.

Safety has always been Peter Pan’s number one priority.  Peter Pan was the first bus company to install safety belts and introduce a fire suppression system in its fleet of buses.

All Peter Pan buses now feature a state-of-the-art on-board, multi-camera security system and a unique Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) that features a collision mitigation camera radar system with stationary vehicle braking, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and more.

Peter Pan buses’ advanced engines are the most fuel-efficient large vehicles on the road today with GPS systems to eliminate unnecessary idling, and to monitor speed and braking.

Peter Pan’s highly-trained drivers have been recognized nationally for their achievements in safety. Peter Pan is proud to employ the best drivers in the industry.  Many of our drivers have achieved One-Two-Three-and-Four Million Miles without an accident.  Peter Pan is very proud to have the only driver in the United States to have achieved 48 years/Four Million Miles of accident-free driving in his career – Operator Edward Hope. To put this in perspective, one million miles equals at least 12 years of accident-free driving.  Peter Pan coaches travel over 25 million miles every year, or the equivalent of nearly 100 trips to the moon annually. That translates to one of Peter Pan’s buses traveling around the world three times every day.

Buses … and Beyond!

Peter Pan is one of the largest privately-owned bus companies in the United States serving over 100 cities in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states.  Although the Picknelly family continues its proud tradition of providing the finest bus service available … there’s much more than meets the eye when you look beyond the bus.

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

  • Camfour – A wholesale sporting goods distribution company
  • Hill Country – A wholesale sporting goods distributor
  • Belt Technologies – High performance conveyor belt systems
  • Duval Precision Grinding – High tech precision grinding services
  • PMP Air – Private executive jet services
  • OPAL Real Estate – Property development, management and holdings
  • The Student Prince/The Fort – A landmark restaurant in Springfield, MA
  • Union Kitchen Restaurant in West Hartford, CT
  • McLadden’s Irish Pubs in Northampton, MA, West Hartford and Simsbury, CT

Since its inception, Peter Pan has remained a family-owned and operated business. 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 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.