In late 2019, Winthrop “Win” Sargent was jubilant after he and his two partners bought the Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Company. They had plans to re-energize the company, founded in 1888, with new buses and more routes to solidify their place as the number one bus service for the Cape and South Shore.
“We finished 2019 and started 2020 with plans to add routes to our service area, and introduce a new fleet of 27 motorcoaches to the service. We brought the first few buses to P&B and were preparing to introduce them to our passengers,” recalled Sargent, the company’s chairman and CEO. “Then COVID happened.”
What followed were layoffs and a shutdown of their operations for 14 months. P&B is a popular choice for commuters to Boston and for travelers to Logan Airport. When the need for commuting diminished, workers were relegated to working from home and the travel industry shut down as the pandemic raged, P&B was stalled in its progress.
However, this year, on May 13, the sun was shining on the company’s headquarters in Plymouth as Sargent, president John Cogliano and CFO Paul Fuerst addressed an assembly of media and legislators who had come to hear the good news that P&B bus services were back starting May 14 with service between Hyannis and Boston. Two of the fleet’s shiny new buses, emblazoned with the new company logo, served as a backdrop for the event.
Last year, the company used its time off to make a number of upgrades to technology and safety and institute new health measures, such as frequent disinfecting of the buses and installation of air purification systems. The company has approximately 50 employees back to work and plans on hiring more as they move into the next phase of service. In addition, P&B
partnered with the U.S. Army, which guarantees soldiers an interview with the company and the possibility of employment following their terms of service. The Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) Program is a strategic partnership between the U.S. Army and a cross section of corporations, companies and public sector agencies.
As the country and Massachusetts move towards reducing their carbon footprint, bus travel couldn’t be more timely, said P&B partner John Cogliano, a former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation and CEO of the Mass Turnpike Authority.
“Every P&B bus can take up to 55 cars off the road which reduces local traffic congestion, reduces overall gas consumption, and truly benefits the environment,” he noted.
Cogliano said in the future, the company would be exploring greener alternatives to diesel-fueled buses, but he’s leaning more toward hydrogen fuel cell technology, when that’s developed, rather than electric vehicles.
P&B plans to upgrade its fleet frequently, he said.
The company has been inundated with interest mainly about its service to Logan. At the end of May, 14 trips from Hyannis to Logan Airport were offered, starting at 3 a.m.
“It is very encouraging to see our critical transportation networks coming back on-line, after seeing business models crushed by severe capacity limits due to COVID-19,” reflected Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross. “P&B has served as a critical lifeline to the Cape – and transported generations of Cape Codders to work in Boston or Logan Airport, and it is a relief to see those beautiful blue buses on the road again!”
South Shore Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Peter Forman noted that the company not only offers a critical option for commuting to Boston and the airports, but also provides access for people who moved to the South Shore and Cape Cod during the pandemic.
“P&B offers local residents a critical option for commuting to Boston, Logan Airport and now Green Airport that the MBTA often cannot match,” he said. “That helps open the South Shore and Cape to more people who want to live here but need access to those areas without the stress or expense of driving themselves. That makes P&B essential to the region’s economic future. The new ownership is already showing important community leadership. The new fleet of busses incorporating the latest technology for safety and air quality will help reduce anxiety about returning to work. By resuming commuting service before the MBTA restored some of its services led the way in announcing it is time to re-open the economy.”
The company also introduced service May 14 to T.F. Green in Warwick, R.I., as the smaller airport on the outskirts of Providence was a popular alternative airport of choice for especially
Cape Cod and Islands residents. Stops are made in Barnstable, Sagamore, New Bedford and Fall River. The route will run four round trips every day.
“As more ridership returns we will be adding even more bus service,” said Cogliano. “The new T.F. Green Airport bus service from Hyannis has had a strong start with people traveling from Hyannis and other stops to TF Green Airport. We’re seeing increased ticket sales and are confident that our new Hyannis to TF Green bus route will develop into an important transportation service for the residents on the Cape and Southeastern Massachusetts as well as bring residents from Rhode Island to locations in Massachusetts.”
Cogliano also said P&B was planning to offer service from Woods Hole to T.F. Green and Logan. The company’s plans call for adding stops at Woods Hole as well as Falmouth Station in the center of town and providing routes to the two airports. It is working out an access license agreement with the Steamship Authority which will allow P&B buses at Woods Hole to pick up ferry passengers coming from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
“For people coming from Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket who are looking to get to the airports, this will be a great solution for them,” he said, adding, “And of course for the Falmouth residents seeking a comfortable and state-of-the-art transportation solution to Boston and Logan Airport and T.F. Green Airport, we look to fill that need.”
P&B’s owners are glad that 2020 is behind them.
“The past 14 months have been extraordinarily difficult,” Sargent acknowledged in May. “We need people to feel confident and get on and ride.”