Orange County Partnership - News

New bus facility in Chester rolling into full gear

By Judy Rife
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 06/08/14

CHESTER — After five years of meticulous planning, moving in was supposed to be the easy part.

But George Grieve, president of Short Line and general manager of Coach USA's North District, said the company's first week in its $16 million office and garage complex has been "challenging."

How so?

Help wanted
Coach USA/Short Line has openings for drivers and mechanics. Applicants can call the company at 610-2600 or visit its new complex at 66 Tetz Road in the Tetz Industrial Park off Route 94 in Chester.
The security system has thwarted the after-hours cleaning company. The roof drains have washed out foundation plantings. The fuel pump has failed and caused buses to back up to Route 94. The signature Coach USA sign has buckled. And the telephones have dared anyone to answer them.

"Then we've had late buses and dirty buses," said Grieve. "One afternoon, the 2:15 from the Chester park-and-ride, which is less than a mile from here, was late."

Grieve predicted the glitches that have followed the company's relocation from Mahwah, N.J., quickly will be overcome — and commuters soon will notice improvements in service.

"We think they're going to be really pleased, too," added Laurie Heller, Short Line's marketing manager.

During a tour of the 192,000-square-foot building, Grieve and Heller showed off the spacious administrative offices, fitted with generous windows and filled with handsome furniture — the work of an architect who did extra duty as interior designer.

Employee amenities — fully equipped kitchen, break rooms, conference rooms, training rooms, changing rooms and an as-yet unequipped gym — emphasize the contrast to the company's gritty and grimy rented quarters in Mahwah. Ditto a spacious and secure lost-and-found closet that will speed return to customers of belongings left behind on buses.

"The only thing we brought with us were files and computers and parts and tools," said Heller.

The company will keep roughly 40 dispatchers, mechanics and drivers in Mahwah to operate and maintain buses that begin and end their runs in Rockland County and North Jersey — a decision that benefits employees who live closer to Mahwah than to Chester.

The rest of the 200-plus employees and the 135-plus fleet will call Chester home, including the 45-odd buses that were formerly stored overnight at park-and-rides and serviced mid-day. The antiquated garage in Montgomery has been closed.

Grieve and Heller said buses will run a maintenance gantlet — lavatories emptied and fuel tanks filled, exteriors washed and interiors cleaned — every night when they return to the garage after completing their runs.

They will remain indoors overnight and begin fanning out across the region at 3:30 a.m., arriving at park-and-rides and bus stops already cooled down or warmed up.

The sprawling garage — airy, clean and tidy — not only has enough room to store the buses, but also enough room to have 11 of them on lifts at the same time and to park still others for more routine service.

"We were so crowded before that mechanics often had to put a bus in mid-repair back together enough to move it so they could get at something else," said Grieve, explaining that scheduled and emergency maintenance can now proceed in uninterrupted tandem around the clock.

"What this also means, we hope," he continued, "is that customers won't have to complain three times before a bulb in a reading light is replaced."

Separate rooms around the perimeter of the garage contain parts, tires, offices and state-of-the-art systems to treat wastewater and filter air.

The fueling station is circled from above with metal doors that fall if a fire breaks out and seals it off.

Heller said the proximity of the garage to Short Line's primary routes will translate into a faster response to breakdowns. Substitute drivers, previously stationed in Mahwah, will be on hand to replace sick colleagues immediately, reducing delays and cancellations.

"We've already decided we don't have an appropriate room for union activities, so we've got Storm King (Group of Montgomery, the general contractor) coming back to add one," said Grieve.