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RichardK

Vonlane Opening Houston Service

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Vonlane is starting Dallas/Houston service on April 20th. I have been watching with much interest the progress of this luxury bus service since they started last May between Dallas and Austin.

 

The terminal in Houston is the Sheraton hotel on the north side, near the Bush Airport. At first glance, it seems to me this is way too far from downtown. However, on second thought, it might make sense. This is slightly over a 3 hour trip, similar to Austin. The car rental locations are directly across the street. The full trip into downtown Houston would take at best 4 to 4 1/2 hours or even more to Hobby Airport on the south side. They are competing with Southwest Airlines and/or American. A trip of more than 3 hours would not be competitive.

 

They claim the demand for this service has been huge. We'll see what happens.

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Houston service started last Monday and got off to a good start. This Sunday both trips are completely sold out, except for the conference room. Normally, all 6 seats are a single booking. However, Vonlane posted on their Facebook page to call in for a single seat reservation.

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That's great news. I wish Vonlane the best of luck. It's really a very interesting business model, I'd love to see a luxury bus line like Vonlane come to the Pacific Northwest.

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The CEO, Alex Danza, was being interviewed on KRLD 1080 radio last week. He announced that 2 more motor coaches are on order to increase frequency and open Austin/Houston service. San Antonio will come later. He also said, in response to a question, they meet all federal motor carrier requirements, which would allow them to create interstate services out of Texas.

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Looks like it's only $69 between Houston and Dallas. I'd have to try this out. They should serve downtown Houston though.

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If this service is successful, I still do not understand why Amtrak cannot run a train between Dallas and Houston, offering similar amenities. These are two major metropolitan areas with well over 10 million combined population.

 

 

http://www.khou.com/story/travel/2015/05/14/luxury-houston-to-dallas-bus-service-launching-april-20/27292347/

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They should serve downtown Houston though.

I really support Vonlane's model of using nice hotels as stations, but I agree the location in Houston is just too far from the downtown core of the cities. One of the biggest benefits to bus (and train) travel is that you go downtown to downtown.

 

Now that being said, I think the customers that Vonlane is trying to appeal to would like to have ample inexpensive parking at their origin station and have the onboard attendant book them a town car at their destination. But you could partner with a downtown hotel that would still provide all of that (although likely with more expensive parking fees) and get your passengers closer to their likely destinations. The only trick is finding a spot on the busy city streets for a bus to load and unload.

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If this service is successful, I still do not understand why Amtrak cannot run a train between Dallas and Houston, offering similar amenities. These are two major metropolitan areas with well over 10 million combined population.

 

 

http://www.khou.com/story/travel/2015/05/14/luxury-houston-to-dallas-bus-service-launching-april-20/27292347/

Long answer short… There is a lot more capital expense required to get a passenger route started than a bus route started. Also because of the new funding rules, Texas would have to provide all the subsidies to run the route.

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Vonlane announced recently they will be running coaches from Dallas to Texas A&M games in College Station and Houston. You can't say they are not creative.

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They should serve downtown Houston though.

I really support Vonlane's model of using nice hotels as stations, but I agree the location in Houston UN inis just too far from the downtown core of the cities. One of the biggest benefits to bus (and train) travel is that you go downtown to downtown.

Now that being said, I think the customers that Vonlane is trying to appeal to would like to have ample inexpensive parking at their origin station and have the onboard attendant book them a town car at their destination. But you could partner with a downtown hotel that would still provide all of that (although likely with more expensive parking fees) and get your passengers closer to their likely destinations. The only trick is finding a spot on the busy city streets for a bus to load and unload.

If they're really successful, they could end up like the Van Galder coaches in Chicago, which serve both airports and downtown, too.

 

There's also the Concord coach in Boston which serves both south station and Logan Airport. But they're practically next door to each other.

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Nice article, thanks for the link.

Looks like Vonlane is off and running. Their success may result in more routes soon, by them, or other's, perhaps.

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Vonlane announced today on Facebook, they are starting Houston-Austin service in January. Also, there will be a terminal in downtown Houston starting in January. It is not clear if they are abandoning the Bush Airport location.

Edited by RichardK

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Apparently, they have eliminated the conference room. Some of the seating arrangements now reflect the galley and restrooms at the back. There is still a table in front of the galley with two seats facing backward. These seats can be booked individually. The conference room is still shown on some trips, However, the seats can also be booked individually now. It appears the new configuration could be on the new coaches that were ordered for Houston/Austin service.

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I wondered how successful that conference room concept would be. It sounds nice a nice amenity on paper. Problem is, I imagine it wouldn't sell on a number of trips, leaving Vonlane with 6 unsold seats.

 

I think opening it up to individual sales is the way to go. On my Amtrak trips, I've seen that family groups loved those table seats. Plus under this system, if businesses need the space, they can still reserve it.

 

The one concern I'd have... Vonlane should restrict those seats to a group of 3 or more. It doesn't really make since to sell a single seat at the table and in fact, sharing the table might drive some passengers away.

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Also, the new coach is a X3-45. The rest of the fleet are H3-45 coaches.

 

https://m.facebook.com/vonlanecoach/photos/a.800418093320758.1073741830.614780831884486/1171274712901759/?type=3

 

Also interesting... look at the comments on that picture... Vonlane says it plans on adding a route between San Antonio and Houston in late 2016.

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Very nice...glad to see they are successful. The X3 should be very popular....superb ride, great handling, and more than enough baggage space for that limited seating plan.

Plus easier to step in and out of...

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They should serve downtown Houston though.

I really support Vonlane's model of using nice hotels as stations, but I agree the location in Houston is just too far from the downtown core of the cities. One of the biggest benefits to bus (and train) travel is that you go downtown to downtown.

 

Now that being said, I think the customers that Vonlane is trying to appeal to would like to have ample inexpensive parking at their origin station and have the onboard attendant book them a town car at their destination. But you could partner with a downtown hotel that would still provide all of that (although likely with more expensive parking fees) and get your passengers closer to their likely destinations. The only trick is finding a spot on the busy city streets for a bus to load and unload.

 

Maybe they could partner with the owners of one of the sports venues such as the Houston astros or the BBVA Arena (or whatever its called). Outside of venues, there's a lot of prime real estate lying unused and plenty of space for a bus to wait plus space for people to drop off and pick up passengers.

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According to their website, the pickup point in downtown Houston is at the corner of Dallas and Louisiana Street. This is just outside the Hyatt Regency. Rental cars can be booked through the hotel. However, they make no mention of parking.

 

Apparently, the conference rooms were not working out that well. Most of the time they were not booked. When the coach was full, they would book the conference seats individually by phone.

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Vonlane is opening San Antonio/Houston service the first week of April. They apparently ordered new MCI J4500 coaches to support this route. Previously, they were only operating Prevost X3-45 and H3-45 between Dallas, Houston, and Austin.

I happened to see one of the new MCI models departing the Dallas Love Field Doubletree hotel at 3:00 PM today on the Houston run. Very nice looking.

What would be the advantage of MCI over Prevost?

Edited by RichardK

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Vonlane is opening San Antonio/Houston service the first week of April. They apparently ordered new MCI J4500 coaches to support this route. Previously, they were only operating Prevost X3-45 and H3-45 between Dallas, Houston, and Austin.

I happened to see one of the new MCI models departing the Dallas Love Field Doubletree hotel at 3:00 PM today on the Houston run. Very nice looking.

What would be the advantage of MCI over Prevost?

None, IMHO....

I believe the Prevost coaches offer the best ride...especially the X-3's......

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Vonlane is opening San Antonio/Houston service the first week of April. They apparently ordered new MCI J4500 coaches to support this route. Previously, they were only operating Prevost X3-45 and H3-45 between Dallas, Houston, and Austin.

I happened to see one of the new MCI models departing the Dallas Love Field Doubletree hotel at 3:00 PM today on the Houston run. Very nice looking.

What would be the advantage of MCI over Prevost?

None, IMHO....

I believe the Prevost coaches offer the best ride...especially the X-3's......

How about lifetime costs?

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