The California Bus Association (CBA) asked Lisa Allen to be the voice of the industry before a panel of lawmakers who wanted to know the impact of the pandemic on the state’s $84 billion tourism industry.
The Chair of the California Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Tourism and Internet Media, Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) invited the CBA to give remarks on the state of the “ground transportation engine of California tourism” at the committee’s Oct. 14 hearing.
“Today was amazing,” Allen told Bus & Motorcoach News after the two-hour hearing. “The response from the state Assembly members and chair were wonderful. I think they will definitely try and help us with the DMV registration fees and a CARB (California Air Resource Board) rule extension if companies need them.”
Bills to pay
She used the opportunity to ask the state for a DMV credit for bus registration fees for the next year. Allen described how her family business, Amador Stage Lines in Sacramento, went from 90 runs a day to two, moving armed forces.
“Although the charters have stopped coming in, there are still bills that need to be paid. Our businesses have loan payments on new CARB-compliant buses (aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions). In fact, we were one of the first companies to convert our fleet — before the CARB rule. We have building payments or rent, insurance payments, health care payments, DMV registration payments, and more,” said Allen, who serves as the company’s Operations Manager.
‘A fairness issue’
Those DMV registration fees add up to more than $152,000 for buses that have been sitting in Amador’s yard since March. Other CBA members also have costly fees, including Pacific Coachways, which paid $90,000 for its fleet of 18 buses, and American Stage Tours, which paid $26,000 for five buses.
“Overall, this is a fairness issue. We are completely shut down as a business because of the governor’s stay-at-home order,” said Allen, who asked that operators receive a credit for 2020 DMV registration fees that can be used toward next year’s registrations, which are due in February. “It’s not fair to charge companies these DMV vehicle bus registration fees if we really can’t operate until the governor declares (the state is at Tier 1 — yellow — and completely reopened).”
For operators, the credit could be crucial to keeping their doors open while they wait for the reemergence of California tourism. The gross domestic product of the California travel industry was $84.6 billion in 2019, which represents about 2.5 percent of the total GDP of the state, according to Visit California, the nonprofit that markets the state as a tourism destination.
‘We love what we do’
Allen’s family-owned company has been around almost as long as the state. Amador Stage Lines was founded in 1852 — two years after California received statehood — as a stagecoach company carrying passengers from the paddlewheelers on the Sacramento riverfront to the Gold Country in the foothills. Her paternal grandparents started a charter and school bus service in 1947 and then purchased Amador in 1966.
Her mother is Sandy Allen is president of Royal Coach Tours of San Jose and a former member of the CBA Board of Directors.
She shared that Amador. which ran out of Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, funds in early August, has been working with a skeleton crew ever since, with the longtime staff dwindling from 110 employees to 10.
“I know I speak for myself and many others today. We love what we do, and we do it for the people. The motorcoach industry needs to be saved, and we need your help. Our slogan is, “We’re going places.” I hope we and others are able to continue that motto for years to come,” Allen said.
Read her entire speech here.