How To Coordinate Event Shuttle Transportation Services

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

As an event management professional, you’re often required to organize transportation to and from an event, particularly for large events in urban areas where parking, public transportation, or taxi services may not adequately or optimally satisfy your attendees. Hiring a shuttle and bus service will cut down significantly on traffic congestion and help guests arrive on time – and, more importantly, arrive happy.

But what precisely is involved in setting up event shuttle transportation services? How can you best co-ordinate the whole process? Let’s talk about that.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is list all the variables that contribute to your traffic flow. Here is some data you may need:

How many people are attending your event? How many are from out of town and staying at partner hotels? What is your event itinerary? When are people coming and going, and how often? Are there other transportation options that some percentage of attendees are likely to use? Are their other events that may cause congestions?

As a general rule, you’re probably going to run shuttle services throughout the day, but most events will have heavy traffic times where you will need to increase services. We address this topic again below, but if you can stagger or extend registration and reception window – this will prevent everyone from trying to force their way onto the same bus.

Once you’ve worked out a good deal of preliminary information, the next step is to call around and get a great vendor involved. Generally, cost is related to the number of buses, drivers and dispatchers you’ll need. This then relates to the number of days and hours needed. As with any other vendor, you’re going to want to shop around, get a few recommendations, before you commit. Some people may say find the vendor that’ll give you the best deal. We may say find the best deal for the best service. Cheap some times just means their bad. An experienced vendor can often ask and answer questions you’d never think of and this is invaluable!

Planning shuttle routes can be the most challenging step. A relatively circular route that hits several of your partner hotels often seems like the perfect solution. Yet, you need to know a few things.

  • How many Partner Hotels do you have?
  • How many people are staying at each hotel?
  • Is there a heavily congested area between two neighborhoods that is better avoided, and two pick-ups split between two shuttles?
  • Maybe a single hotel stop fills a single shuttle. *
  • Leave time for loading and unloading (and the friend that’s still up in the room!)

Tip: ask your bus company to test drive their chosen route, and ask if their drivers use traffic-monitoring equipment and back up plans troubleshoot unexpected surprises.

Once route details are finalized, and your head count well out numbers a single shuttle run, you need to determine how many shuttles run each route. Essentially you know how the capacity of each shuttle or bus and you have estimated each route’s round-trip travel time.

Now you need to ask yourself when do people need or want to arrive at your event?  For example, tradeshow attendees often arrive throughout the day, while conference attendees tend to arrive at the same time for a kick off keynote.  If there is a start-time to your event then you must move everyone within a reasonable amount of time.

Can a single bus that fit 50 people and it takes 30 minutes to do a single round trip move 200 people before an 8am keynote? Well, it’ll take 2 hours! In this case you’d be better off hiring 2 buses moving people in 2 shifts.

*Keep in mind that even if a single hotel stop can fill a single shuttle not everyone will be ready to get on at the same time. It may be better to keep the shuttle moving and closely follow behind with a second, third, etc. shuttle rather than wait for everyone.

Last – be sure each shuttle is clearly marked with a route indicator, also clearly mark pick up and drop off areas with route indicators. Including route maps in your conference materials is an excellent idea. You may also wish to include an attendee “help number” along with conference materials found on the bus.

Tip: having well informed bus drivers or a volunteer ride along on the bus is an easy way to help attendees find their way around and answer any questions they might have.

One last thing worth mentioning – the shuttle bus doesn’t have to exclusively to bring attendees to and from your event. Particularly if you’ve a lot of people staying on-site, you could actually use a shuttle service to arrange extracurricular outings beyond your conference, offering your guests a few purely social opt-in outings.

As events grow larger and are held in massive venues, maybe in more complex urban or remote areas event planners will need to truly understand and beautifully execute transportation logistics.