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Association Bisnow
May 22, 2008


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“Speed dating on steroids.” That’s how Pete Pantuso, CEO of the American Bus Association (the other “ABA”) describes his trade show format. For the last 25 years—way before it caught on with lovelorn singletons—the ABA’s Marketplace show has been matching buyers and sellers together for seven-minute meetings. Just enough time to see if there’s chemistry.


Extra twist to the usual formula: buyers are in booths and sellers do the walking. The show’s 3,500 attendees scheduled 105,000 appointments last year and Pete says the format works because instead of having fickle buyers wandering an expo floor, the motivated sellers rarely miss a meeting. All those deals grease the wheels of the private bus industry, which keeps a pretty low profile considering it transports 650 million riders per year, as many in two weeks (25 million) as Amtrak does in a year. The one you know, Greyhound, accounts for just 3% of America’s private bus fleet.


When we Metro-ed over to see Pete—sorry, old habit—he told us that after a one-year wait, the ABA just scheduled a court hearing to fight a “bus tax” the City Council passed in December ’06 (a $50 fee on buses entering DC). Pete points out that as many as 55,000 people come through DC daily on private buses, and 35 passengers can pour $12,000 into the economy during an overnight stay. He’s hoping to have the same success the ABA had in defeating a previous $10 bus tax in court, making his 800 members that are bus companies quite happy. All told the ABA has 4,000 members (with $6 million in annual revenue), including 2,800 non-bus organizations in need of visitors (Hard Rock Café, Six Flags, the Smithsonian), 100 bus manufacturers and 250 tour operators.


Pete, brandishing a broadsword he got at a speaking engagement, is a travelin’ man himself. He rides the bus on trips under three hours, but his true love is his cruiser-style Suzuki Volusia motorcycle (a la CHiPS). One of his fave spots is Vermont, where he once tried unsuccessfully to convince Gov. Jim Davis to take a ride with him. Guess he’ll have to call Ponch and John.

Please send story tips to Simon Brown: simon@bisnow.com.

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