Promised benefits of new bus facility: Tourist appeal, clean air, less traffic, By Edie Johnson Chester In these times of social networking, even Coach USA/Short Line has a Facebook page. Coach, which expects to break ground soon on its new corporate headquarters and garage at the Tetz Chester Corporate Center in Chester, has partnered with local tourist destinations, including Bear Mountain, West Point, Woodbury Commons, and Bethel Woods, to appeal to travelers from New York City. A round-trip ticket costing about $29 to $50 will bring them for a tour of Orange County Choppers, where they can buy a custom bike, or to Bethel Woods, where they can see world-famous entertainers like Sting, who is performing there this weekend. In summer a trip to Woodbury Commons, a favorite of overseas travelers, will come with 10 percent discount coupons for stores, restaurants, and even overnight accommodations. The free Coca-Cola concert series offered at Woodbury Commons in summer is an added enticement. The larger destinations have included many departure times on the schedule for the return trip. Special lines will ferry students to and from college at discount rates. Custom tours can be designed for church groups, senior citizens clubs, corporate functions, and other community outings. Today Coach USA/Short Line has an online blog for customers and is beginning to install Wi-Fi service in some of the new buses. “We are just waiting for a set of final plans for the project which we have heard they hope to begin this fall,” said Chester’s building inspector, Joe Mlcoch. After downsizing, new growth The Short Line branch of the company, which dates back to 1922, has always tried to accommodate passengers by adding runs when problems arise and making extra stops for customers in need. Little by little these extra stops evolved to become permanent stops, and then new lines. But while Short Line has a long history in the area, it has had to pull back in recent years. Acquired by Coach USA, which in turn was owned by a holding company in Scotland named Stagecoach, Short Line joined a fleet that expanded across the country, including innercity bus systems in Chicago and San Francisco. At one point Coach USA had expanded to a fleet of 5,000 buses and yellow cabs. But after 9/11, tour bus travel took a big hit. The company downsized, selling its Midwestern lines and focusing on the Northeastern and North Central corridor. Aside from the company’s numerous local park and rides, their buses in the New York area have until now been kept in two holding yards: the main Coach facility in Paramus, N.J., and the Short Line facility in Mahwah. Deterioration of the Mahwah facility and the need for better security brought Coach to Chester, where some employees already lived, in 2007. Buses will be washed, repaired, and stored for the night at the new Chester facility. Officials expect hundreds of jobs to come to town. Don Serotta, the Town of Chester Planning Board chair, frequently encourages developers to include pick-up areas for the buses in their plans to encourage new residents to commute to the city by bus as way to ease traffic congestion. Homeland Security funding The tightly enclosed garage will include an air-cleaning system that will eliminate every particle of carbon dioxide, and turn out spotless buses, said Short Line President George Grieve. The state has given its approval, since all reclaimed mines must meet certain requirements. The entire industrial park was reclaimed from a former mine that had been tapped out in recent years. Because the site is expected to be safer than the current practice of keeping buses at the many park and rides, Coach was eligible for Homeland Security funding. An added perk of the storage garage, Coach says, is that buses will be road-ready at dawn warm in winter, and cool in summer. Chester Supervisor Steve Neuhaus emphasized that a lot of people have worked on the project over the years, including Chester’s planning and building departments. Neuhaus, eager for the groundbreaking to begin, said he stepped in this past year when the project was threatened by tardy county paperwork for grants, and the Coach people needed his help. He said he only hopes Chester is brought to the table in discussions of tax benefits. Neuhaus referred to the town’s lawsuit against Orange County’s Industrial Development Agency over a super-enhanced tax break it granted to C&S Wholesale Grocers. Coach went through a speedy approval process early in 2008. Traffic consultants made the case that most of the buses are already here, and that a modern new facility will keep down noise and pollution, enhance safety and decrease the numbers of cars headed to the city.
Coach in Chester Size: 200,000 square feet, including 5,000 square feet of office space ew construction: Maintenance and storage garage, corporate headquarters General contractor: Storm King Contracting of Montgomery Location: Tetz Chester Corporate Center, Route 94 Cost of land: $2 million Traffic: 500 buses daily Estimated new jobs: 300