Private Charter Buses Unite for Smooth Ride at Political Conventions
Trailways leads bus team effort at summer DNC events in Philadelphia
How does the bus industry organize charter buses to serve 35,000 people staying at 90 hotels throughout a major city for a full week during the Democratic National Convention? The feat was accomplished through an industry-wide effort of massive proportions, and Trailways had a leading role.
Trailways Takes a Lead Role
Trailways achieved the criteria set forth by the DNC: experience in large-scale, fast-track events, plus a proven history of reliability, expertise and demonstrated success.
Trailways coaches were chosen specifically to transport 7,000 convention attendees who required additional security including the 4,763 delegates in the 2016 Democratic National Convention roll call. Advance background checks and clearance were required for the group of drivers in the Trailways move.
The Trailways-only coaches were inspected, then separated into a "clean lot," meaning that the coaches and the parking lot were cleared by the Secret Service. The coaches were allowed to move from the secure area only to drive their scheduled shuttle routes. Every Trailways coach had a law enforcement officer on board for the full week.
According to Eva M. Hotard, president and chief executive officer of Trailways, "This is an example of how we can use the power of our network, which is made up of outstanding Trailways bus companies. With our resources, we can pull together a big regional group of high-quality bus companies to work together quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively."
A key Trailways leader was Marcia Fields Milton, president and chief executive officer of First Priority Trailways near Washington, D.C. She supported the team in this large effort. "This type of move takes countless hours of work behind the scenes to be smooth and organized for the client. The strong Trailways network can deliver that service," Milton said.
According to participant David Benedict, president of David Thomas Trailways in Philadelphia, "We were proud to host the DNC in my hometown and to serve their transportation needs through the Trailways network in the mid-Atlantic region."
Trailways used a total of 17 bus companies. Ten were Trailways Charter Network Member companies, while seven were non-Trailways companies.
Five Pennsylvania Trailways members participated: David Thomas Trailways, Martz Trailways, Fullington Trailways, Mlaker Trailways and Bailey Trailways.
Five other Trailways members came from the region, including First Priority Trailways and A.S. Midway Trailways in Maryland, Flagship Trailways in Rhode Island, Adirondack Trailways and Pine Hill Trailways in New York, and Lancaster Trailways of the Carolinas.
The other seven companies included in the bus move organized under the Trailways umbrella: Perkiomen Tours & Travel and Wolf's Bus Lines in Pennsylvania; Stout's Transportation and Classic Travel and Tours in New Jersey; A P Xpress Bus Company and Superior Tours in Maryland, and Agape Travel and Tours in Virginia.
This group of private bus shuttles for the DNC convention was larger than 96 percent of the municipal transit systems in the U.S. The vehicles were nearly all accessible via wheelchair lifts in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Slightly More than half were women- or minority-owned or operated.
Advance Preparation and Teamwork
Trailways began working on the bid eight months prior to the July event. The request was for 135 coaches for eight consecutive days and required mostly full-size, ADA-compliant coaches.
One contact person, Sabina Dhami, Trailways' director of charter group movements at the time, worked with the client on behalf of all of the 17 bus companies. She was on 24-hour call for all eight days.
Trailways has earlier experience with the DNC. With its bus industry partners, Trailways also provided many buses for the DNC convention in Charlotte, NC, in 2012.
During the event in Philadelphia, Hotard and Dhami visited the bus staging lot and met with many drivers to thank them.
According to Dhami, "This was a major team effort. We were able to serve as the primary contact with the on-site management company, which is one of the key reasons the DNC chose Trailways."
Scott Henry, chairman of Martz Trailways/Martz Group of Wilkes-Barre, PA, said, "To save time and work for group planners, this combined effort through the Trailways network showed that we can be the top choice for large bus moves or groups of any size really. It's what we do."
Al Spence, president of A.S. Midway Trailways in Baltimore, had coaches at the event and was a coach driver himself. "It was our first time. For the amount of buses involved, I think it went very smoothly. We were assigned a shuttle for three hotels, including a casino, to and from the convention center. At the end of the day, the casino shuttle was very popular," he said.
Several Trailways companies, such as Fullington Trailways, also participated in the 41st Republican National Convention July 18-21 in Cleveland, OH, before going directly to Philadelphia. Michael L. Dull, director of operations for Fullington, was on the road for more than two weeks with his fleet. "The conventions are great business for the private bus industry, and we were proud to play a part in both," he said.
Professional Coach Drivers Play Key Role
During the week of the DNC convention, coach drivers worked like clockwork to transport 15,000 members of the news media as well as 4,700+ people in the State Delegation Party and 1,000 DNC staffers to and from 90 hotels to the Wells Fargo Center for the convention. Airport bus shuttles began three days prior to the opening gavel to transport up to 8,000 people arriving over the weekend in Philadelphia for the convention. The shuttles returned them to the airport afterward as well.
Hotel accommodations for drivers and fuel for the vehicles were provided by the client to all of the bus companies.
John E. (Jack) Pero, charter supervisor for Adirondack Trailways and Pine Hill, said, "Trailways can always get the job done. The most gratifying part was knowing that we got the job done on time." His role was to book the charter and to collect all of the information needed for security background clearance checks, which took place with very short lead time.
Adirondack coach driver Galroi Mikriis said, "The most gratifying aspect was knowing that I played a small part in the democratic process. My role was to ferry representatives, supporters and family members to and from their hotels to the convention site. Trailways was successful because our operators and representatives were totally professional."
"Being there and experiencing the process was the most gratifying part," said Gresford Lewishall, another Adirondack coach driver. "Trailways bus companies were successful because they achieved their intended responsibility in getting the delegates to and from the convention."
Trailways bus companies are gearing up to drive dignitaries on Inauguration Day this coming January in Washington, D.C., as well.
Trailways is an expert in handling large, complex moves. Founded in 1936, Trailways has 80 years of experience. As a whole, the Trailways Charter Network covers 86 percent of the U.S., plus parts of Canada and Europe. It includes more than 5,000 vehicles for all group sizes.
To let Trailways help you succeed with your next event, call the Trailways bus charter hotline at 1-877-467-3346; or use the easy, online quote form at www.Trailways.com.