Bauer's luxury commuter bus gamble pays off

June 25, 2010 9:11:59 AM PDT
It was risky for Bauer Transportation to launch a luxury bus service to Silicon Valley in the midst of an economic downturn. But, a year later the gamble seems to have paid off. The luxury coaches are up to 70 percent full. It may not be luxury that attracts riders, it may be the economy.

"We're trying to get cars off the road, reduce emissions, reduce the congestion, but it is also a quicker form of transportation," said Gary Bauer of Bauer Transportation.

This form of transportation also features work areas for riders with laptops, hot coffee or tea for that morning jolt, as well as Wi-Fi -- all included in the fare. With someone else doing the driving, passengers are able to start their work day before they ever get to the office.

"I get to spend time working a little bit longer. I don't have to fight traffic myself. Sometimes I can sleep," said passenger Triton Hurd.

Most of these riders are going from San Francisco to Cisco Systems campus in Milpitas. They appreciate the leather seats, hot drinks, electrical outlets and ports for their iPods.

"This is the best way to get to and from work. It saves about an hour and a half a day in commute time and you arrive relaxed," said passenger April Neilsen.

The routes range as far north as Santa Rosa and as far south as San Jose. The fares on the San Francisco Milpitas route range from $5 up to $9 each way, although some companies subsidize the service for their workers. The buses themselves cost half a million dollars.

In March of last year, Bauer ran one bus with a handful of passengers. Now there are four buses and they are usually 60 to 70 percent full. Bauer is considering expanding the service to Sacramento and Santa Cruz in the future.

"We are trying to give a nice luxury product, with a work space, at a reasonable price," said Bauer.

"I think it's a lot better use of time than being in a car. Absolutely one less car on the road is great. It's a direction that we all need to head in," said Neilsen.

In addition to starting up the new routes, the bus line is putting a lot of effort into convincing Silicon Valley businesses to offer a bus subsidy to their workers. They say its greener, arrivals would be more predictable and can help increase productivity because employees can work on their way in.


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