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As the host of the inaugural 2019 Invitational Youth Games event, Special Olympics Ontario was responsible for providing buses to and within Toronto for more than 2,500 international athletes and coaches — while at the same time accommodating unique accessibility requirements.
Bus.com’s unrivaled expertise and purpose-built technology took all the complexity out of travel logistics, enabling Special Olympics Ontario to effortlessly coordinate buses from 12 different providers through a single point of contact.
With seamless bus management, the organization ensured that all participants were in the right places at the right times, contributing to a wildly successful event. Thanks to Bus.com, Special Olympics Ontario saved time equivalent to an entire part-time employee, and faced none of the usual logistical stressors.
In 1969, Toronto was the site of Canada’s first ever Special Olympics event, and since then, Special Olympics Ontario has been dedicated to enriching the lives of Ontarians with an intellectual disability through sport. Each year, the organization runs a provincial sports event for school-aged youths, and another for the wider community. In 2019, it was chosen to host the inaugural Invitational Youth Games.
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics movement, the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games saw 2,000 student athletes from all over the world come together in Toronto to participate in four days of competition. Alongside these athletes, 500 coaches brought the total invitee number to 2,500 — and it was up to Special Olympics Ontario to coordinate bus travel for all of them.
Kirsten Bobbie, Manager of Operations & Logistics at Special Olympics Ontario, explains:
“We were responsible for all travel arrangements for Canadian teams, as well as airport pickup for international athletes. During the Games, we also needed to provide bus transport within Toronto for all participants, getting them to and from their events”.
“Due to the demographic of our athletes, some teams required accessible transport — for example, buses with wheelchair ramps or lowerable entrances — and we insist that all the drivers we use have passed police background checks.”
Given the scale and complexity of these logistics, coordinating buses for the event looked to be an immensely time-consuming task. But as a charitable, government-funded organization, Special Olympics Ontario could not afford to commit too many resources to travel logistics. It needed a way to manage buses efficiently and cost-effectively, without overburdening in-house staff.
Special Olympics Ontario sent out an RFP, and after evaluating proposals from more than ten bus providers, it found that Bus.com was the perfect fit.
“Bus.com stood out because it was a one-stop-shop,” comments Kirsten Bobbie. “Instead of having to deal with a dozen different bus companies, we could communicate with a single point of contact at Bus.com who took care of all the details. That was the real win here.”
In the run-up to the Games, a dedicated Bus.com project manager communicated daily with their Special Olympics Ontario counterpart to develop a comprehensive plan. Behind the scenes, Bus.com worked with 12 separate bus operators to schedule all the vehicles and drivers necessary for the event.
“The second reason we chose Bus.com was the customer service,” continues Kirsten Bobbie. “Not only were they very receptive to our unique accessibility requirements, Bus.com also sent two of their people down to Toronto for the duration of the event. They integrated directly with our in-house team, and used information from our staff on the ground to resolve any issues that emerged in real-time. They had their finger on the pulse from start to finish.
“For example, on the first night, an unforeseen delay caused a couple of teams to miss dinner. It looked like one team might miss the opening ceremony altogether, but Bus.com got on the phone immediately and managed to arrange a police escort to get the athletes to the venue on time.”
The 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games were a resounding success, and with Bus.com handling the logistics, event organizers didn’t suffer a single travel-related headache.
“Bus.com gave us true peace of mind,” confirms Kirsten Bobbie. “We could just say that we needed a certain number of buses for a certain number of people, and Bus.com would make it happen. Being able to trust logistics to a single point of contact saved us so much time and stress. it was the equivalent of an entire part-time employee, and it meant we could focus on other priorities.”
Since the conclusion of the event, Special Olympics Ontario has received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the bus service from team coaches. They report that students were excited to be picked up from their schools in buses arranged especially for them — not to mention the fact that all accessibility needs were accommodated.
Next year, the Youth Games will be held in another city. And as Special Olympics Ontario resumes its normal schedule of two annual events, it is looking forward to continuing its relationship with Bus.com.
“I’ve planned transportation for six major events now,” concludes Kirsten Bobbie. “The difference between doing it with and without Bus.com is huge. If we’re on our own, whenever there’s a problem, we have to call up multiple operators and speak to people we don’t know to try and sort things out. Bus.com takes care of all that, and their existing relationships with bus providers really seem to streamline the process.”
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Students participating in the 2019 Short-Term Missions enjoyed another year of seamless bus transportation – in spite of major, last-minute scheduling changes.
Ben Marsh comments: “Three weeks out from the event, we realized that our budget was under pressure. We took another look at our schedule, and decided that we needed to make some changes. Bus.com was super receptive, and they worked with us to consolidate multiple student groups into single coach buses to reduce the number of vehicles.”
Behind the scenes, Bus.com completely overhauled the bus schedule, switching from using mostly minibuses to mostly coach buses. Having to make such large-scale changes on such short notice could have been a disaster, but Bus.com ensured that everything went smoothly.
“All students got to their flights on time,” recalls Ben Marsh. “And, as always, the return journey was just the best.”
Bus.com is not just responsive to Bethel’s evolving requirements, it also provides proactive suggestions to help the Church improve its processes. Each year, after the event, Bus.com checks in with Bethel to discuss what can be done better next time.
“After the 2019 event, Bus.com suggested that in future we could overbook buses in advance, and then cancel down as we finalize the numbers. That way, we can be sure that we’ll have enough buses, and we’ll benefit from fixed pricing.
“Bus.com’s proactive approach helps me make sure that busing never falls through the cracks,” concludes Ben Marsh. “Airport transfers are only one part of the event, so it’s great that I can focus on other things. And I’m always confident that Bus.com can adapt and solve any last-minute problems.”