A Bus Company With A Purpose

Coach Atlantic – Maritime Bus – T3 Transit
Written by William Young

This Maritime-based bus company is composed of three businesses committed to moving people daily: Coach Atlantic, which operates motorcoaches for group charters; Maritime Bus, which is concerned with daily scheduled bus line runs across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island; and T3 Transit, moving passengers in the municipal and rural communities of PEI.

The Transportation Group consists of 250 vehicles and 500 employees operated by the Cassidy family, Mike and his wife Mary Jane and their sons Matthew, Stephen, and Ryan along with a dedicated Senior Management and Employee Team.

The family entered the bus business in April 2005, purchasing a small motor coach company in their home province of PEI and in September that same year, the Cassidys started Charlottetown’s first public transit system. Seven years later, in December 2012, they took over the daily scheduled bus line runs in NS, NB, and PEI after the long established Acadian Lines surrendered their motor carrier rights, citing annual operating losses within a Maritime Region which could no longer be sustainable. “We like to spend our time in businesses that serve a purpose within a community or region,” says Mike Cassidy.

The company considers itself the most diversified bus company that has ever operated in Atlantic Canada, providing a litany of services from group charters to cruise ship shore excursions, multi-day tours, school contracts, daily scheduled line run services, and PEI municipal rural bus routes, all under its very recognizable brands Coach Atlantic – Maritime Bus – T3 Transit.

Coach Atlantic President Matthew Cassidy says that one of the main business segments for the company is the cruise ship market, which has been growing steadily in Atlantic Canada over the last decade and has been bouncing back after the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a greater need now to serve that segment and continually support its growth.

This has led Matthew to an initiative to purchase California pre-owned double-decker motorcoaches for the business, vehicles that can move more people at any given time. In the past year, the company has sourced an additional nine such vehicles beyond its initial purchase, with the hope to add another seven to eight by the end of 2023. These double-deckers have low mileage and no rust or corrosion, and are a great touring vehicle to pair with cruise ships.

The company is also making a further $16 million dollar investment into its fleet of regular premium motorcoaches, purchasing an additional 20 motorcoaches in 2024 at approximately $800,000 each. This purchase will help the company keep up with the multi-day tourism business and the traditional motorcoach market as it continues to grow. Presently, the Bus Group moves 8,000 passengers daily in the off season and ramps up to 15,000 per day in the Tourism season from May to October.

“Our vehicles allow people to see all parts of the Atlantic provinces,” Matthew states, allowing for economic prosperity to be spread out amongst the smaller regions.

Economic diversification is all-important for the company, as is working in tandem with local businesses. Matthew notes that the company is responsible for 85,000 annual hotel/motel room nights in the region thanks to touring passengers, and has helped boost food, tourism, and attractions along the way. Continuing to make investments in the region will encourage more people to visit Atlantic Canada, and wherever passengers are moved to, they are spending money and stimulating local economies.

While moving people is a top priority for the bus group, the Cassidy family is also committed to the agriculture sector. The diversification has given way to a venture by Mike Cassidy into VK Greenhouses and Cassidy Farms, the agricultural arm of the Group. In 2018, he was interested in introducing the haskap berry crop to PEI—a ‘superfruit’ that resembles a long blueberry but is packed with more antioxidants—as well as continuing to distribute its well known VK tomatoes to Atlantic Canada.

VK and Cassidy Farms are meant to inspire people to buy locally and support local farmers. Mike and his family are born-and-bred Maritimers, so they understand the markets and culture of the region and how important shopping locally and sustainably is for everyone.

He says that the family’s Maritime roots are a reason why it is so easy to build relationships with everyone from suppliers, banks, and levels of government to one’s competitors. Establishing long-term loyal relationships makes business easier in a perceptibly smaller region like the Atlantic provinces.

All businesses today face their challenges and transportation is no exception. The transportation industry is currently facing headwinds, says Matthew, with supply chain issues imperfect but improving. Interest rates have doubled in the past 18 months, which represents a significant difference when making capital investments, and this has influenced financial decisions on all levels.

Another issue on the rise is the prospect of climate change and sustainability, which will be a challenge in the next decade. The company wants to be a leader in the climate change conversation. The transition to zero-emission commercial vehicles is going to take time as technology and infrastructure develops. Therefore, the company looks to do incremental improvements whenever possible. This includes purchasing fuel-efficient and high-capacity vehicles and starting the process to introduce electric transit buses for its municipal transit fleet.

Travel is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity for customers, especially post-pandemic, Matthew says, and Coach Atlantic – Maritime Bus – T3 Transit is confident in where it is and where it is going. Mike adds that he has never been more excited in his career than right now, especially as the team investigates different ways of moving people in the future. Both the transportation and agriculture industries are low-margin and capital-intensive, with seven-days-a-week operations, so it takes a huge level of commitment and passion to be involved in them for as long as the Cassidy family has.

The family believes in the Atlantic Canada region and in what the Company Group does for it. This belief is both the definition of its success and the reason why there is so much excitement around the continued growth of both. “It’s hard for us to think that we would be as successful in any other region of Canada,” Mike says, seeing a more exciting future than ever heading into the new year.

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