Last year we asked planners what they wanted to know about planning event and meeting transportation. We’ll be tackling a few of those questions in a series of blog posts throughout the year so we hope you’ll join us as we demystify transportation!
Like most aspects of planning for large events, there will always be certain variables that are impossible to prepare for. It’s the nature of the industry, and it probably has something to do with why event planning is consistently rated as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs. That being said, when it comes to planning bus routes, there are certainly a few basic steps you can take to prepare.
KNOW THE ADDRESS
It may seem obvious, but our Logistics Manager, Bethany Arthur, says it is often overlooked. Most major hotel chains have multiple locations in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. It’s (extremely) important to know exactly which Holiday Inn Express is part of the room block and which one is not. Once all hotels and event locations are correctly plotted on a map, potential routes begin to emerge.
THE 5 STOP RULE
There are many things you want your attendees to experience at your event, but the never-ending bus ride is not one of them. General rule of thumb – do not put more than five stops on a route, and four is preferable.
THE ROOM BLOCK
Have we mentioned that route planning is a complex equation that can vary drastically based on about 30,000 different factors? Allow us to drive that point home with this nugget – while it may appear geographically logical to put 3 hotels on a certain route, the combined room block size may end up being so large that it would be extremely difficult to run an efficient shuttle. The bus would fill up at the first stop and have no room for attendees at the second or third stops. Hell hath no fury like attendees watching a full bus bypass them at their stop, causing them to miss the free breakfast at the convention center. *Bethany’s suggestion – 1,200 rooms/route
If you don’t know your attendee demographics as well as you know the barista at your local Starbucks (you’re an event planner, the chemical make-up of your blood is 50% caffeine), you might as well give up now. For instance, the attendees at a fitness tradeshow are different from those at a corporate convention. The fitness folks may be more inclined to walk, while the majority of the corporate attendees would likely use transportation. You need to know the age, habits and any relevant cultural characteristics (i.e. Europeans are more likely to use public transportation).
THE UNKNOWN KNOWN: TIMING IS A FICKLE THING
Bethany has a few tips to determine approximately how long it will take a bus to run a route:
Familiarize yourself with the city’s traffic pattern and any ongoing construction.
Add 2-3 minutes per stop for unloading and loading.
A route that takes a car 15 minutes, will take a full size motor coach about 20 minutes
A few other factors to consider when planning routes:
Most full-sized motor coaches can hold 56 people
The bus door opens on the right side of the vehicle
Is the pick-up/drop-off located on a one way street?
Avoid asking attendees to cross the street to load the bus (they don’t always use the crosswalk…)
Does the city have any bizarre regulations? (i.e. Austin, TX requires special permits for buses larger than a mini bus to operate within the city and many cities have “no bus” zones)
Historic cities (Charleston, New Orleans, Boston) often have narrow streets that are difficult for many full size motor coaches to maneuver
So, as you can see, route planning can easily cause one to feel anxious, overwhelmed, confused and possibly a little insane. Don’t worry, we get it. It’s not easy, but it can be done. And of course, practice makes perfect, and we’ve had 27 years of practice!
Special thanks to our Logistics Manager, Bethany Arthur, for sharing her extensive knowledge! Do you have a question about event transportation? Let us know on Twitter! Use the hashtag #stewarttransportation and we’ll do our best to answer you!
It’s no secret that the security landscape has drastically changed since 9/11. Schools, religious institutions, entertainment venues and everyday establishments have been forced to deal with this sad fact. No one is exempt, including the meeting & events industry. Together, we must face these new security threats head on. Currently, the Exhibitions & Meetings Safety & Security Initiative (EMSSI) is working to establish an SOP or protocol for convention centers, similar to those already developed by arenas and stadiums. In the meantime, collaboration and communication are key to helping to ensure the safety of all those involved in the event.
Emergency preparedness can be daunting. With so many distressing possibilities to consider, it can be difficult to know where to start. Of course, we all know it’s impossible to prepare for every scenario, but there are a few broad measures we can all take to improve onsite security.
In terms of event transportation (that’s us) and in the case of an emergency situation possibly requiring evacuation, it is of utmost importance to share emergency contact info with the event organizers and security teams prior to the event. During site-visits, make sure you include your transportation team in any emergency planning conversations. We have developed an internal emergency response plan, but its primary function is to protect our people and our vendors. Unless we are aware of an event-wide response protocol, our team will default to this internal plan. Again, communication is key!
Many security details have assessed the different levels of danger, liability, and possibility attributed to potential risk scenarios. Whether you are at a convention center or hotel or even a dinner party, never be afraid to ask for a security brief on how to respond in the event of an emergency. In talking to the security team at the Music City Center in Nashville, they require client briefings prior to events and provide safety/emergency pocket guides to clients and those working in the facility.
Ultimately, there aren’t specific questions that planners and vendors need to ask in order to create an emergency response. Emergency planning should involve collaboration with security and those working in and around the facility. It’s also wise to keep those with knowledge of any plan to a minimum – it streamlines communication procedures should something occur and it simplifies the planning itself. One venue alone can throw thousands of events every year, and because many events have various demographics and set-ups, different safety measures and protocols may be in order. Oftentimes, venue security is able to provide a range of coverage depending on the size and layout of an event. Thus, being collaborative in your emergency situation discussions can be vital to safety success.
To sum it up, the goal is to:
Speak with security teams and event planners about emergency protocols prior to events
Assess potential risks and emergency situations with your own team
Be collaborative when planning safety procedures – talk it out, share ideas, write it down
Follow industry best practices
Make emergency plans accessible to patrons and staff
Regardless of higher security measures needed across the board, we must push forward in our industry and do our best in planning our security and emergency endeavors.
How do you plan for emergencies? We’d love to hear from you! Use the hashtag #stewarttransportation and let us know how you plan for security for your events!
We’d like to thank Elisa Putman, Senior Vice President/Chief Operations, and her security team at the Music City Center for guidance on emergency situation and safety details. The MCC has a full-time team in place, which includes multiple supervisors and managers ready, willing, and able to jump in and assist the event security team in a moment’s notice – and they frequently do. Putman said it best, “It’s a team effort to ensure the safety of all.”
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