Customizing interiors improves the ride

With the panoramic-sweeping views provided by its sideways stadium-style seating and floor-to-ceiling windows, THE RIDE is not your grandparents’ motorcoach.

The four Prevost H3-45 VIP Edition motorcoaches are as tall as legally possible for the New York-based immersive and interactive entertainment experience, which transforms city streets into stages for its three distinctive 75-minute Broadway performance tours.

“We are an anomaly for them, definitely,” THE RIDE CEO/CCO Richard Humphrey said of the Prevost coaches. “We basically gutted the chassis and raised the roof about six inches. Our goal was to create traveling theaters —and currently, the world’s only traveling virtual reality theater.”

THE RIDE’s being fully integrated is just one extreme example of the potential of customization. The specially crafted technology includes more than 3,000 LED lights; 40 video screens of 7-, 10- and 17-inch sizes; a floor-pounding sound system; and audio equipment for hosts and performers. The seating totals 49 that are 16-inches wide and 14-inch deep seats in three rows; with the pitch 33 ¾ inches in the top row, 32¼ inches in the middle and 32 inches in the front. Each vehicle was customized by Burlington, Wisconsin-based LDV, Inc., costing $1.5 million apiece.

“We can run a Broadway show from the integrated technologies, if we’d like,” said Humphrey, whose 30-year background includes the performing arts, entertainment and business. “You’re with us for a 75-minute experience.”

While you won’t find stadium seating or floor-pounding sound systems on most coaches anytime soon, options abound to maximize relaxation space, enhance seating, improve technology and more. For most operators, cost/benefit ratios dictate design—and it’s tough, says Ken Presley, the United Motorcoach Association’s COO, to mix things up too much when you need to consider passenger safety and capacity needs.

But more operators are starting with basics like legroom, a feature that’s not all that basic, said Brent Maitland, MCI vice president for marketing and product planning.

“That converts into sellable space and comfort for passengers, primarily. We’ve definitely seen more and more of a move to a thinner profile for seats (with a 32 ½-inch seat pitch providing four inches of knee room). And there’s more to it than that.”

Interiors. Seating. Headrests. Footrests. Flooring. Upholstery. Fabrics. Cupholders. Tables, desks and tray tables. Side pockets. Storage areas. Conversation nooks. Video screens. Audio-visual systems. Lighting. 110-volt/USB outlets.  Wireless. Third-, fourth- and fifth-generation (known as 3G, 4G and 5G) mobile broadband internet.

Prevost displayed a 2019 Volvo 9700 at the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) EXPO in January in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The features included adjustable seat tracks, customizing from a 56-seat configuration with removable Amaya 800 seats tailored to almost any passenger configuration. A side benefit with the tracks was an added 4/10ths of an inch in the aisle, according to Helene Gamner, Prevost’s product line manager for the Volvo 9700.

After 35 years of operating Delaware Express, Gerry Frenze says he knows one thing for certain: “Passenger comfort and safety features are paramount.”

That’s why Delaware Express included plush leather seating, 110-volt power outlets, Wi-Fi and tray tables when ordering four new MCI J4500 motorcoaches. With clientele including the Philadelphia Union’s Major League Soccer Club and the University of Delaware Blue Hens NCAA Division I athletic teams, the ability to stretch out and relax while being plugged in was key. Frenze also wanted tray tables so that the Newark, Delaware-based company could test out a la carte box lunches on charter trips for automobile and floral shows.

“It’s an experiment and a new level of service,” he said, “and we want to see how it goes over.”

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