by Karen Robbins, President

Since December of 2020, I have written several blogs about starting over during Covid-19. We have been quiet on social media for the last year and it felt like we needed to explain ourselves. I have not shared those blog versions because one day it felt right, and then suddenly it didn’t. The world was still turned upside down. There was a lot of emotion tied up in the words I wrote. I even tried a peppier version of “We are Still Here and Ready When You Are” but that didn’t feel right either when so much of our team was not “still here.”

Same Turbulent Sea, Different Boats

2020 was our 30th year in business. It started out as a magic year with a magic team. We were buckled in and climbing the roller coaster, getting ready for a fun ride celebrating a milestone year. Instead, by March 13, 2020, we sent everyone home. Stunned, concussed, and grappling with coming to an abrupt halt in the middle of the ride. What just happened?

Like so many small businesses in the event industry our story is not unique either. All of us missed something last year. Covid-19 changed all of our lives. I remember seeing a quote about us all being in the same boat. Instead the writer noted, we were “all in the same turbulent sea just in different boats”. That felt about right. The experience was the same, yet different for everyone.

We own our office buildings and each person on the team had their own office space. It was lively and fun to walk into those buildings. Many of the offices looked like dorm rooms festooned with event badges and memorabilia and birthday decorations. If you are in the event world, you know what I mean. SWAG is fun! But, when your business is completely taken offline in a matter of days and continues to be sidelined a year later; the reality is, you probably need to get rid of the buildings. Everything was finalized a few weeks ago on the last two buildings. The process took months to unravel, we needed to store and set aside, giveaway and decide. It was not easy, but that chapter has closed now.

Stuck in a Weird Place – March 2020 to March 2021

And, now suddenly, we are here in March of 2021. The weather feels exactly the same as it did this time last year when the world was unraveling. It’s unsettling how much time has passed so quickly, yet slowly.

And during this year, we have watched while our clients and industry friends were furloughed or were navigating the virtual meeting pivot. Truth be told, the sideline of the event industry is a weird place to sit and watch things happen that you can’t control. Our industry is used to making things happen not watching them fall apart and shift dramatically within days. When I think about this last year, I am reminded of an industry friend who posted a few weeks into Covid-19. He said, “at the end of every show we would all shake, hug and say see you on the next one, and I will never take that for granted again.”

Boy was he right. Who knew at the end of those events that something could come along and completely wipe out the next event and the next one and…?

We look a little different now and while it is a terribly sad thing it is not necessarily a bad thing. There have been many lessons along the way. We are asking ourselves different questions than we did a year ago. We are less hurried and less worried than we were last year at this time. This clarity has brought about another level of thinking and creativity. If Covid-19 showed us anything about life it is who is ultimately in control and it is not us. We may have been grieving hard this last year, but we still have a heartbeat. We are still here.

Hope, Optimism and Bus Magic

Spring is here and we are shaking off the weirdness! It’s time to start over and it is time to share again. Even though we did not celebrate our 30th year last year, it does not mean it didn’t happen! We may not be the same as we were 365 days ago but we can’t do much about that.

We plan on celebrating being in business for 31 years and we will celebrate the team that contributed to that success, too. Without them, there would be no Stewart Transportation Solutions. Our penguins, (team mascot), deserve to be remembered. This past year has been hard on them, too.

These days, there is hope on the horizon and in our inbox! There is optimism, new beginnings and fresh starts! The “we can’t wait to be face-to face-again” meetings have started! And boy, are we ready to make the bus magic happen again!

To our customers and friends that have continually checked in over the last year, thank you. Thank you for continuing to find creative ways to use our services in this difficult time. But, most of all, thank you for caring and being a part of the ride. We are ready, when you’re ready, after all.

March 23, 2020

Like most of you, we have been carefully monitoring the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. In just a matter of weeks, we have seen our world and our industry change drastically. We want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to protect our people, our business and our ability to serve you.

In order to ensure the safety of our employees and their families, we have asked them to work remotely. We have also activated our business continuity plan, which allows us to remain fully operational. While our new normal looks a little different than it did 3 weeks ago, we are using a variety of virtual platforms for frequent communication and collaboration.

We know that COVID-19 has hit our industry particularly hard. From hotels and airlines, to convention centers and attractions, and everyone in between – we are in this together. For thirty years, we have provided superior transportation services to our customers in part because of our bus industry partnerships. Not only have these suppliers been a vital part of our business model, they have also played an important role in our country, connecting people and places for decades. To our bus industry friends – we support you and look forward to working with you again very soon.

The travel industry employs some 15.8 million Americans and in 2019 accounted for $2.6 trillion in economic output. We are proud to be a part of this vibrant industry and are continuing to plan future events. If you were planning a meeting for this Spring, please consider postponing or rescheduling. This will help our industry and our country recover.   

Although we never anticipated that our 30thyear in business would be our most challenging, we are committed to our industry, our clients, our vendors and our employees. We want you to know that we are very much still here and we plan to be around long after COVID-19. Thank you for trusting and believing in us for 30 years. We are grateful for every experience and look forward to many more. Stay safe and stay strong.


Eddie Stewart, CEO

This year we celebrated our 2019 retreat at the Ranch at Laguna Beach. Our annual retreat is an important event for our team because it is one of the few times we are all together. We use the opportunity to reconnect with one another, relax, reflect on the year and prepare for the year ahead.

Each year we are fortunate enough to receive sponsorships from our vendor partners. Not only do these sponsorships help make our retreat possible, they also provide vendors an opportunity to advertise their services to our Program Managers. We are very much aware that what we do would not be possible without the incredible vendors we work with across the country and we are grateful for the relationships we have built and continue to build with them. Thank you to our incredible 2019 sponsors!

If you are interested in learning more about our sponsorship opportunities, please contact Brandon Terpstra.

Written by Linda Bryant for the Tennessee Ledger

Eddie Stewart, CEO of Stewart Transportation Services, is an event transportation expert. Based in Nashville, Stewart’s company is involved in planning and coordinating all types of transportation for events all over the world, including the Ryder Cup.

STS won a bid five years ago from the Nashville Sports Authority to manage Nissan Stadium service lots. Landing the contract resulted in the company handling transportation for all events at Nissan Stadium and all Titans games.

Put simply, Stewart is an expert on how to shuttle people around, from one to 50,000. The company works in virtually every city in North America, and clients include Fortune 500 corporations, national travel and trade associations and sporting event organizations.

The Ledger spoke with Stewart to find out how Nashville compares with other cities when it comes to hosting big events.

You have coordinated and managed transportation and parking for events all over the nation and world. How does Nashville stack up as a city to host events?

“I have lived here all my life. I have had the privilege of watching this city grow and change. I will say this: Nashville is very well coordinated when it comes to these things. It may not seem that way to some people who come downtown. But our company works many other places – Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, places that have more serious traffic challenges. We do a very good job in Nashville.

“The real key to these events is we are able to sit down and plan them out with all entities and with the city government. It takes a lot of work. Sometimes it requires meeting with MTA because you are going to disrupt their route. Sometimes it involves getting the Fire Department involved because you have to make sure you aren’t blocking something that will create a safety hazard. Often, we have to engage off-duty Metro Police to hold lanes open for us to valet.

“Or in some cases it’s just to enforce the trafficking around valet (services) to enforce the safety issue. We get a lot of cooperation from the Convention & Visitors Corp. They do a great job of bringing everyone together.’’

Just how big of a disruption are the upcoming Stanley Cup games going to be?

“The Preds plan is pretty much the same plan they’ve had all year long. Their fans are very regimented in their normal routine. They know how to come to a game, where they are going park, if they are going to come early, what they are going to do, etc.

“The bigger change we’ve seen in the games leading up to the Stanley Cup is that there’s more of an opportunity to now come downtown and be a part of the action. You can come downtown and sit on the plaza or you can walk around downtown. A lot more people are using Uber and Lyft, which is creating its own kind of traffic congestion.”

Is Nashville ready to roll the city out for the Super Bowl?

“Before we host the Super Bowl, I think we should host the NFL Draft. It’s starting to move around now. It was at Chicago two years ago and Philadelphia this year. Nashville can certainly handle it.

“As far as the Super Bowl goes, you bet we’d love to have it. One of the challenges is that we have an open-air stadium and our weather is just a little borderline. These are a couple of things that might prevent us from getting that call to host a Super Bowl. There are still a few things that need to be addressed: particularly hotel rooms and stadium infrastructure. It may be a ways off, but we’d love to host the Super Bowl.”

How does Nashville compare to other cities when it comes to hosting events?

“We are not on the scale of Atlanta and Chicago, but we are probably more of an event city than those cities are. That’s because we have so many music opportunities, and we have a downtown Nashville that’s so vibrant and exciting. There’s always something going on. We can have a hockey game, a major concert and several other valet and sponsored events going on at the same time.

“You might not find that kind of scenario in even some bigger cities. You might have a big event happening, but not as many at the same time. It has a lot to do with the branding of Music City. We have so many different opportunities to host different kinds of events that surround the music industry here. That’s the unique thing about this town.’’

What needs to be fixed to make Nashville more of a premiere event city?

“We’ve got to do something to solve our congestion and traffic issues. I believe it’s more of an issue on the surrounding freeways of Nashville than it is on the highways and byways, although those are certainly congested, as well. I would love to see some sort of a monorail system that runs from Murfreesboro to Nashville or from Brentwood to Nashville. But that’s very challenging.

“Living in America makes it hard for people to give up the individual experience of riding in your own car. We have an office in Seattle, and that’s a place where every public bus is full. The culture here is just not aligned with that kind of ride experience. It’s going to take a lot of money [to build a monorail], and it can be a hard sell to lay it all out there on the basis of the question, ‘Will they come, and will they ride?’”

Does Nashville have a lot of price gouging when it comes to parking during big events?

“We haven’t seen a lot of that. The city and the media do a good job of reporting on it and keeping things in check. It’s also very competitive here. If you are charging $20; the other guy across the street is going to be charging $20. Naturally, the closer you are to an event means the market will bear a higher price [for parking].

“One of the trends we’re seeing is that a lot of the small businesses in outlying areas [of downtown] are opening up their parking lots. If it’s a nice night, and you are willing to walk, you can find $5 parking. It’s just not going to be right up to the stadium.’’

Can you give a “day in the life” type of example of a typical parking challenge downtown?

“Last week during the Western Conference Final game we had a valet project at the Country Music Hall of Fame. We were valeting right there on Demonbreun Street while a game was going. There was a John Legend event going on at Ascend Theater at the same time.

“Normally, we would have Lot R at Nissan Stadium available for the fans going to the game and for the employees of Bridgestone Arena. But because there was the Good Guys Car Show going on that week, it took over all of Lot R. It created a lot of different scenarios for all those businesses. Bridgestone had to look at relocating their employees and some of their fans.”




By Connect Staff, May 4, 2017 for Connect Association

Colleen Chase, 30, works in Seattle as senior account manager at Stewart Transportation Solutions Inc. As a 2017 40 Under 40 honoree, Chase discusses her passion for the events industry.

What I do: I plan, coordinate and execute transportation logistics for conferences and events all around the country for up to 50,000 attendees. We bridge the gap between event planners and the transportation industry. Our success is built upon strong and authentic relationships with our clients, vendor partners and staff. It’s my goal to make the attendee experience better through thoughtful transportation planning, as it is the first and last impression of an event or conference.

How I got here: I stumbled into working for this company and ended up falling in love. Since then, I have gone from contactor to program manager to senior program manager and, most recently, senior account manager.

My greatest career accomplishment: I came into this business nine years ago with no experience in the events industry. I was very shy and introverted. Today, I am managing event budgets of over $1 million with teams of up to 125 people at a time.

Impressive stats: Last year, I saved our clients $90,000 on four large programs. The transportation component on an event is fluid, so I always try to find creative solutions to save our clients money.

A specific improvement I’ve made: A few years ago, I worked with one of our contract staff to develop a live ridership tool for our clients. They were blown away we could capture attendee bus ridership as it happened and watch it on their smartphones or laptops. Next, I was tasked by leadership to work with our web developer to make our beta Live Count program even better. Today’s version is amazing, and our clients love it.

What I’m working on: I am excited to manage several complex conferences over the next year with 20,000 to 30,000 attendees. Moving them from hotels to multiple venues is a challenge, but I love a good puzzle!

What I do outside of work: I love to do jigsaw puzzles, play board games and travel.

Senior Account Manager, Colleen Chase, with Brandon Terpstra, Director of National Accounts, at Connect Association’s 40 Under 40 Breakfast in New Orleans, LA. #ConnectMP




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. 


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. 


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. 


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). 


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! 

by Eddie Stewart, CEO

[written for Small Market Meetings, July 2016]

We often say that event and meeting transportation is the outcast of meeting planning. It’s not glamorous and it’s not immediately associated with the overall attendee experience. Of course, if it’s not done right, you better believe it will be the number one complaint on your post-event survey. To sum it up, meeting transportation is a big deal.

We understand that not everyone has the budget to hire a transportation management company like ours, and that’s okay! However, we care about transportation too much to let any attendee suffer through a poorly executed shuttle program. We’ve compiled a few of our best planning tips to ensure that transportation doesn’t show up on your post-event survey.

Attendee Profile: What is the average age of your attendee? Younger attendees are more likely to use public transportation, ride sharing services or walk. Older attendees are usually more reliant on the shuttle service. You might also want to know whether they are familiar with the city. Are they on a tight budget? How many typically stay in a hotel room?

Shuttle Frequency: Do you plan to offer a continuous shuttle service? If so, what is the frequency of service required? Every 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes? The more frequent the service, the more buses you’ll need on a route.

Map it Out: Group hotels into districts and neighborhoods to establish bus routes. It’s important to maintain a reasonable round trip time. We recommend no more than five stops on any one route.

Room Blocks: How many attendees are staying at each hotel? How many booked outside of your room block? This information is crucial when determining how many buses to allocate to each route.

Previous Year: Do you know how many attendees utilized the shuttle service the previous year? How does this year’s schedule compare to the previous year? Even if registration is up this year, understanding how attendees utilized the service the previous year will help give you a more accurate idea of how many buses you need this year.

Weather: What is the weather like this time of year? If it’s hot, cold, or typically rainy, you want to minimize the amount of time your attendees have to wait outside for a bus. This may mean that it makes sense to increase shuttle frequency by adding more buses to a route, or providing a tent to help shelter attendees from the elements.

Peak times: Identify the times where ridership will be highest. These are the times when you will need more buses running on each route to ensure your attendees arrive at their destination in a timely manner.

Drive the Routes: If possible, drive the routes yourself a few weeks before the meeting starts to confirm the total time it takes to make a round trip. You can also use this opportunity to check for any unexpected construction or changes to hotel drop-off and pick-up locations.

Do Your Math: We usually estimate that 70% of attendees will utilize the shuttle service. Most full-size motorcoaches can hold approximately 55 people, but you should account for luggage, bags, presentation materials and any other unforeseen item an attendee may have with them when they board.

Booking Buses: When determining how many buses you need for each route throughout the day, it’s helpful to know that most bus companies have a five hour booking minimum. If you need buses all day, you will need to account for driver breaks or switches, which may take a few buses out of service for a certain amount of time.

Social Media: During your meeting, keep an eye on Twitter. This is usually where attendees go to voice issues or frustration with any aspect of the meeting, including transportation.

Permits, Police & Insurance: Some cities require permits to stage buses in certain areas. Additionally, you may need police to assist with traffic flow. Convention and Visitors Bureaus can be an excellent resource when determining these types of needs.

If this sounds overwhelming, it can be! And sometimes it makes more sense to let a company like ours handle your transportation. The benefit of working with a transportation management company is that we handle everything mentioned above, and then some. But when that’s not an option, we hope these tips will help you create an excellent transportation program for your meeting.

I want to conclude with our biggest tip of all – expect the unexpected. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past 26 years, it’s that something will go wrong. You can’t plan for everything, but having a solid transportation plan will help you react and adapt to changes like a pro!

Last week we wrote about the importance of relationships to third-party companies, so this week we thought we’d dive into what it means to be a third-party transportation company.


By Eddie Stewart, CEO, Stewart Transportation Solutions, Inc.

For third-party companies in the meetings and events industry, a good relationship with a vendor can make all the difference. And we should know!

As meetings and conventions become larger and more complicated, third-party companies have become an integral part of how planners operate. With the ability to streamline the planning process, they take on the task of dealing with vendors or venues, contracts, details, logistics and the minutia associated with planning a meeting.

In order for third-party companies like ours to make it all happen, we must rely heavily on the relationships we have built in cities across the globe. A good relationship can make the impossible, possible. And in the event transportation industry, there are three types of relationships that stand out from the rest – our relationship with the vehicle company, the drivers and our on-site staff.

Some people are surprised to learn that we don’t own buses or vehicles of any kind. This means that we’re not limited by geography or the size of a fleet, which allows us to provide transportation services anywhere the client decides to hold an event or meeting. In order to do this, we depend on the fleets of transportation and bus companies throughout the United States and abroad.

Whether you talk to a CMP or one of our Program Managers, they will tell you that knowing the right person to call makes all the difference. And it’s a very symbiotic relationship. We depend on them to get the job done right and they look to us to bring them good business. We respect our vehicle vendors and understand their needs. Because of this, they will work with us to find solutions to most inventory or availability issues that can come up.

Of course, the power of a good relationship extends beyond knowing the right vehicle vendor.  The men and women who drive those vehicles can have a big impact on whether a transportation program is successful or not. We figured out pretty quickly that a happy driver can make all the difference. That’s why we provide a cash gratuity to all of our drivers (believe it or not, many event transportation companies don’t do this!), take the time to get to know their names and make sure they get their required breaks. They appreciate this and will often go above and beyond to provide our clients with the best possible service. We also have drivers who request to work on our shows just because they enjoy working with us. A happy driver also makes the job a lot easier for our staff.

The relationships we have built with our travel and local staff are essential to what we do. It’s more than just hiring a body to stand on the curb and herd people onto a bus. We depend on our network of 400+ contract staff to keep it all flowing smoothly on-site. At the start of every show, we make sure they are trained on more than just the show schedule. We make sure they know us as a company, our culture and that they are part of our team. They also get a crash course in Servant Leadership – our management philosophy.

Relationships are an important part of any industry, but particularly for companies like ours. We are able to do bigger and better things for our clients year after year because of the vendors and people we depend on. Respecting the relationships that keep the doors open and the clients happy is key to third-party success.