Sonoma County Airport Express sold to Virginia company

A Virginia transportation company on Wednesday acquired Sonoma County Airport Express, which transports 300,000 travelers annually by bus from the region to both San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport.

Groome Transportation Inc. of Sandston, Virginia, bought the 60-employee company from owners Ray Neese of Santa Rosa and Howard and Janet Emigh of Lake County, said Tony Geraldi, general operations manager. The purchase price was not disclosed.

The acquisition is the first on the West Coast for Groome, a family-owned business that operates primarily in the Southeast, with shuttle services to the airports at Richmond, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; and Atlanta.

“They have been an example of how to run an airport shuttle for years,” Jared Churchill, general counsel for Groome, said of Airport Express. “They have been doing really well in the market.”

Employees and passengers will not see any additional changes; however, a long-planned fare increase of $2 per trip will take effect on Jan. 15, said Geraldi. A regular one-way adult trip that costs $34 per person will cost $36.

The fee increase is the first for the company since April 2011. “When you consider the length of time of where it (the fee) has been, the increase is quite reasonable,” Geraldi said.

He noted that in the more than five years since the last fare increase, costs for materials and labor have increased, notably with the increase in gas taxes.

The company’s 19 buses operate on diesel fuel; the state Legislature raised taxes on diesel last month by 20 cents a gallon and increased the diesel sales tax from 9 percent to 13 percent.

The service has seen an increase in the number of passengers continue despite new forms of transportation that have come into Sonoma County in recent years - from car-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to the Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit train that operates from downtown San Rafael to near the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport.Airport Express service departs from the Sonoma County airport on its 19 daily southbound trips.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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