A Shift from Tactical to Strategic:  A Check List for Evaluating Transportation Management Partners

Over the past several decades, transportation planning for meetings and events has undergone significant changes driven by a demand for improved levels of service and more cost-effective vehicle management to address continued transportation cost pressures. To address these demands and remain competitive, transportation management companies have had to shift from being tactical vendors to strategic consultative partners in planning and executing transportation.

What happens behind the scenes in managing meeting and convention transportation is one of the keys to a seamless attendee experience. It’s the engine that keeps everything moving smoothly, ensuring attendees get where they need to be, when they need to be there.  Whether planning a city-wide meeting or large event, we know that experience, city knowledge, strong supplier relationships, and strategic use of technology are all critical factors for ensuring a successful transportation operation.

When evaluating a transportation partner, capabilities can be broken down as follows and can serve as a check list when comparing potential transportation partners.

Route Planning and Hotel Selection
Intricate knowledge of a city’s layout, hotel locations, loading zones, traffic patterns, key landmarks and competing events drives strategic route planning that minimizes travel time and maximizes efficiency. When transportation management partners have this knowledge, they can provide critical insights into hotel selection which translates into more cost-effective and efficient route planning.

Integration of Technology to Improve Efficiency and the Customer Experience
With a solid foundation of transportation management experts at the helm, the strategic application of technology can support much more efficient transportation operations. With the advent of GPS technology, transportation management companies can track buses in real-time, allowing for quick adjustments to respond to accidents, competing events and congestion.  GPS technology has also facilitated the development of mobile applications that enable meeting attendees to access real-time bus arrival schedules at their hotels. These apps vary in sophistication, with some companies utilizing off-the-shelf software, while others opt for custom development to provide a more enhanced customer experience.

Detailed Ridership Reports
Different ridership metrics provide valuable insights into attendee behavior, demand patterns, and transportation needs, enabling transportation managers in partnership with meeting planners to accurately determine the number of buses needed for a meeting or event and to support future planning efforts.  Detailed ridership reports provide a clear understanding of bus utilization efficiency and costs per passenger, and deliver direct evidence of a transportation partner’s ability to predict ridership and the required number of buses.

Pre-Event Registration Tracking
In recent years, late event registration has become the norm, creating challenges for meeting organizers in all areas of planning, including transportation.  A capable transportation partner will track hotel block pick-up, so that adjustments can be made to required bus counts, and planners are only paying for the number of buses they actually need.

Supplier Relationships
Strong relationships between transportation management companies and their suppliers can enable preferred rates for vehicles, ensure operators are vetted for quality, reliability and safety, and enhance the overall quality of transportation offerings. With firsthand knowledge of supplier operations, vehicle maintenance procedures, and adherence to local and federal laws governing driver qualifications and training, transportation partners can provide the level of confidence that planners need to ensure attendees will be transported safely and reliably around cities. 

Knowledge of Local Laws and Regulations
Organizing large events at convention centers often requires obtaining permits from local authorities, which may include considerations for traffic management, road closures, and pedestrian safety. An experienced team will have knowledge of required permits and will work closely with conventions centers and city transportation officials to minimize disruptions to traffic flow and local residents.  This may also involve working with ride-sharing companies to set up specific pick-up and drop-off areas that do not interfere with scheduled shuttle service.

Compliance with ADA Regulations
Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that transportation services provided for meetings and events are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Local laws and meeting organizers may mandate specific accessibility requirements for transportation providers, such as wheelchair-accessible vehicles and accommodations for individuals with mobility impairments.  Planners should rely on their transportation partners to determine the required number of vehicles and a plan to provide service to attendees with disabilities so they can fully participate in meetings.

Mitigating Delays from Traffic Congestion
Cities experience varying levels of traffic congestion and bottlenecks, especially during peak hours of major events. Having local expertise means anticipating traffic patterns, identification of alternative routes, and implementation of contingency plans to mitigate delays and ensure punctual arrival of attendees.

Responding to Emergency Situations and Incidents
In the event of emergencies, natural disasters, or unforeseen incidents, local knowledge is invaluable for implementing contingency plans, and coordinating with local authorities. In addition, establishing centralized command centers equipped with communication and vehicle monitoring technologies enables oversight of transportation operations in real-time. This centralized approach facilitates coordination between transportation providers, venue staff, drivers and emergency responders, ensuring a swift and effective response to any unforeseen incidents.

VIP, Special Event and Airport Transportation Services
City-wide meetings often require more than hotel shuttles for moving their attendees between venues.  In many cases, meeting organizers offer airport transportation, VIP transportation and busing for special events.   A skilled transportation partner can coordinate all types of transportation requirements simultaneously while maintaining an outstanding level of customer service.

Sponsorship Services that can Help Offset the Cost of Transportation
Meeting and event shuttles offer unique and high-impact opportunities for exhibitors or event sponsors to promote their products and services while providing revenue for meeting organizers to help offset the cost of transportation.   Such opportunities can include shuttle wraps, sponsored video programs, shuttle app ads, branded head rest covers and sidewalk decals. When transportation partners offer these services, it takes all the logistical steps involved with sales, printing and installation off the plates of planners, delivering another valuable benefit.

With all the complexities involved in developing and executing a transportation plan for a city-wide meeting, convention or large event, planners shouldn’t overlook the importance of hiring a team that has the full breadth of experience, knowledge, and ability to continuously innovate with technology and other value-added services.

Event Transportation Systems (ETS) is a trusted transportation management partner to hundreds of organizations, capitalizing on all opportunities to reduce costs while providing outstanding efficient transportation solutions. ETS has been providing transportation management solutions for large association and corporate meetings since 2002 and continues to innovate with its service offerings and technology solutions. You can rely on ETS for shuttle systems planning and management, airport transfers, VIP sedan services, special event & tour transportation, and shuttle advertising

Contact us today to see how we can help support your next event, convention, meeting or tradeshow.

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