Celebrating its 20th year in business, Anchor Trailways & Tours, which has locations in Nashville, Tenn.; Paducah, Ky.; and Tuscumbia, Ala., is riding high on the success of its groundbreaking intercity service, dubbed the ATRunner.
The new service runs along an old Greyhound line; is funded by a federal 5311(f) grant administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation's (TDOT) Multimodal Transportation Resource Division; and connects smaller rural areas with Nashville Human Resources Agencies, Nashville Metro Transit Authority buses, Greyhound, Music City Star commuter rail and the Nashville International Airport.
"The service makes 11 stops," explains Jared Stancil, Anchor's vice president. "The fares range, but round trip pricing averages about $30, and the line is 150 total miles."
Stancil says that Anchor's ability to obtain 5311(f) funds began when TDOT placed an ad in the paper saying it had funding for certain types of projects, which ended up being for intercity service. The two entities soon sat down and Anchor hammered out a proposal that was accepted by TDOT, funded and launched in 2008.
"What we wanted to do, and the state of Tennessee wholeheartedly agreed, was look for a different way to connect intercity service. We just didn't want to replace Greyhound, which meant pickup at the normal places they picked up and dropped off at," says Stancil. "What we proposed is, you choose different types of riders and go to places where they may want to go."
For instance, Stancil points out that the ATRunner has a stop at the University of Northern Alabama, enabling students to visit Nashville as well as connect to the airport and other forms of vital transportation.
"This is one of the first scheduled route services to be implemented by the State of Tennessee in partnership with a private company," says Stancil
Also part of its initial proposal was to provide passenger amenities such as Wi-Fi, 110v power for operating portable electronics and satellite TV. All the coaches — MCI D4505s — are also equipped with wheelchair lifts.
Anchor has secured 5311(f) funding for the addition of two more ATRunner lines—one going west, the other northwest— that will connect Nashville with Memphis set to launch this spring. Stancil explains the wait has to do with the operation's ability to attain Buy American-certified MCI coaches no sooner than that time.
The service to this point has been successful with Anchor focusing heavily on getting Tennesseans to leave their cars at home and use the ATRunner to get to the airport. To do this, they take advantage of both a new sales manager and a marketing consultant that, combined, help the operation increase its visibility and drive sales.
Stancil says that it is Anchor's courage to take on new avenues of business, which sets it apart.
"Our background is charter bus service. Stepping in to a completely new service, not only financially but also doing something we've never done before, that's the difference between us and the competition; the courage to make the decisions and make it work," he says.