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How-To Guide to Renting a Shuttle Bus

Did you know that the word “shuttle” initially referred to a device used in weaving that pulled the thread in a repeated back-and-forth motion? Shuttle services operate in a similar manner: a shuttle is a bus or a passenger van that runs with high frequency over a short, typically non-stop route between two places. Here is a how-to guide featuring everything you need to know about shuttle services. 

The most common types of shuttle services

Depending on route management and flexibility, shuttle services can look like the following:

  • Circulating shuttles are ideal for busy areas, such as business districts, campuses, resort communities, shopping districts, large commercial and employment centers. They travel with high frequency over a circular route connecting key locations such as from a parking lot to the office building, or from a transportation hub to the entertainment center.
  • “On-demand” shuttles are an “on-call” service, a flexible type used during off-peak times or in low-density areas.
  • Charter shuttles are the best for accommodating custom schedules, select groups of people, and unique occasions.

The most common types of shuttle vehicles

There is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to vehicles used for shuttling. Instead, the correct vehicle will be chosen depending on group size, with the average vehicle capacities being as follows:

Who arranges shuttle services?

Shuttles can be a part of public services funded by the community government, such as: 

  • High-density urban regions; funded by the federal, state, provincial, municipal, or local government
  • Low-density, rural areas; funded by the municipal or local government
  • Resort/recreation area; funded by the neighborhood association.

Or they can be special services, arranged by organizations, businesses, or even individuals for select groups of people:

  • Residential neighborhood or estate; funded by the developer
  • Campus or research area; funded by the school or college
  • Commercial centers, workplaces, attractions, camps, hotels; funded by business associations or individual businesses

Popular shuttle service use cases

Shuttle services provide transportation when public transport and private vehicles are unavailable or impractical. Here are the main applications where shuttle services are a perfect fit: 

Work mobility shuttles are used if the work location is remote or its area is too vast, such is the case in some research facilities, agricultural complexes, construction sites, large factories, etc. Government and military groups are a great example: on military bases, buildings and field training grounds can be too far apart to cover the distance on foot. 

College campuses sometimes offer late-night shuttles for students and staff who head home past the public transport hours. Student trips or practical field studies benefit from shuttles, too, as many students might not have any other means to get to remote locations.

A school bus that transports children to and from school can be a shuttle, too. In some areas, school bus services operate as routed shuttles timed according to the school bells. Summer camp shuttles often circulate on a set schedule between the pick-up points and the camp.

Some major commercial centers provide free shuttle service as an extra incentive for their visitors. Hotels, conference venues, shopping malls, and tourist attractions offer shuttle services as a part of their customer care. Churches sometimes arrange for a shuttle route scheduled around regular worship rituals.

One of the most well-loved services Bus.com helps to organize is the airport shuttle. Whether it is arranged for a business event attendees or is a part of a group tour service, airport shuttles eliminate the stress of navigating the airport parking or overspending on taxi fares. Bus.com offers charter shuttle buses from every nearest airport to New York, Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Boston, and every other major city in the US and Canada.

According to leading event experts, event attendance is affected heavily by the transportation options provided. The event host can lose up to 50% of attendees if there is no convenient commute to the venue. It is a perfect application for a shuttle service. Major commercial events — like concerts, trade shows, festivals, non-profit galas — use them to keep the attendance rate high. Corporate events use shuttles to help their employees relax and enjoy themselves. Private events and weddings rent shuttles to ensure that each of their important guests can attend, regardless of their ability to drive.

Public shuttle services are an essential part of local public transportation management strategies. Towns with multiple terminal bus and train stations use shuttles for passenger interconnections. Government-funded shuttles are often used during times of high demand for transportation, like elections or celebration. Shuttles are used to solve parking overflow or compensate for the transit challenges like rail maintenance. 

Special Mobility shuttles are vehicles with the Universal Design features that can accommodate people with special needs. They improve accessibility where public transport has not been fully upgraded and support those with a disability who do not have their own vehicles.

Why use a shuttle service?

Shuttle services greatly benefit both their passengers and the overall community. 

  • Shuttle services provide mobility for non-drivers. They improve mobility for people who are transportation-disadvantaged due to poverty, the inability to drive, or a disability. The same goes for tourists that do not have access to the car they left at home. 
  • Shuttle Services replace individual automobile trips in places with high transportation demand and hence reduce road congestions. It works for both busy districts where walking is not as comfortable and remote suburbs, where essential facilities are far apart, so residents have to rely on transport.
  • Shuttles improve parking conditions since they can return to an off-site parking lot and be recalled when needed. 
  • Shuttle services provide consumer savings: they add more transportation alternatives, so residents do not have to buy their second – or even first – car, and visitors do not have to get a taxi.
  • Shuttle services produce safety and environmental benefits as they reduce overall traffic. They also improve the community’s standard of living: better public transport means fewer individual cars moving or parked, more professional drivers, safer local roads for cyclists and walkers, less noise.

When it comes to private charter shuttles, there are a few additional advantages worth mentioning:

  • A private shuttle means a door-to-door service accommodating custom schedule. The driver meets the group personally and waits if needed. 
  • Unlike carpooling, shuttles come with a professional driver. It is a safer way to travel. It is a huge relief for passengers when they do not have to keep an eye on the road or panic when a designated driver runs the red light.
  • When traveling with a familiar group, passengers can spend time productively or rest up. Besides, shuttles are typically commercial vehicles with reclining seats and productivity features.

Shuttle service best practices for event organizers

Getting to and from the location of our interest is an integral part of the overall experience. Every trip is an investment of time and effort. This is why logistics managers work hard to plan and execute transportation brilliantly. 

Planning the shuttle route is the most challenging step. A circular route is a classic choice, but there are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • How many locations does a shuttle have to visit? Will it drop the guest off at the same hotel, or several?
  • How many people will get off at each location? Will a single location fill an entire shuttle?
  • Is there a congested area that is better avoided?
  • Do passengers need to arrive at the same time at the start of the working day, or will there be arrivals during the day?

Once the route details and the headcount are finalized, it will become clearer how many shifts and shuttles will be required and how long will be the expected trip and waiting times. Depending on the situation, the planner can choose three shifts of the same shuttle, or three shuttles leaving within a single time slot.

After that, it is time to hone the details. Here are some useful tips for organizing a shuttle service that would deliver the results and delight the passengers:

  • The flexibility of the route is an advantage of a shuttle. Hire an experienced local driver who can adjust the route to avoid traffic on the go.
  • If the road conditions are complicated, choose a chauffeured service. A professional driver can handle any situation expertly.
  • If a charter school bus or coach is too big, but a passenger van is too small, select a minibus or mini-coach. They will sit up to 30-35 passengers comfortably.
  • Include pick-up and drop-off maps and support phone numbers with every ticket or attendee note. Alternatively, minors and adults can both benefit from an informed volunteer accompanying each shuttle.
  • It is better to wait at the stop a bit longer than keep running late.
  • Make sure that you keep enough available shuttles in between arrival and leaving windows. Some guests might have to leave mid-day.

Can anyone arrange a shuttle service for their team, group, or community?

The short answer is “yes.” Most shuttle services use rental vehicles, even when they are a part of a government-sponsored program. The reason is the high cost of owning and maintaining a fleet of various vehicles, hiring and vetting professional drivers, and keeping up-to-date with complex requirements of industry regulations and insurance policies. 

Bus.com provides shuttle services across both the US and Canada. Our expert team and innovative toolset handle all challenges associated with organizing and managing a shuttle service – for any client and any purpose.

Ready to rent a shuttle?

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