CODEPINK Homepage » Campaigns » Mar 15 & Jan 27: Mass Mobilization in DC

ORGANIZE A BUS


RESERVE EARLY!
If you are certain that you can commit to a bus rental, do so immediately! Some companies require a sum, such as 25%, to reserve, with full payment due anywhere from departure date to weeks before that. Others may let you reserve with nothing down.

WHAT TO RENT:
Long-range buses with good seats are often referred to as "tour" buses, "tour" coaches or "deluxe motor coaches." They range from 45 to 58 seats and usually have a microphone and PA for the group leader and a bathroom (if only for very limited use). Some have VHS or even DVD playback, with monitors above the seats. It may seem like a small thing, but ask if the buses have footrests -- it's a sign of a modern, well-equipped vehicle. Probably the most respected brand of bus is Prevost. Regardless of brand, ask for the model year or inspect the bus beforehand.

Some companies may have smaller 36 or even 25 passenger "buses" -- but make sure they are fit for highway travel; many such vehicles are just airport shuttle buses, which are not safe for prolonged high speed travel. They usually do not have bathrooms and may have limited storage. Such small buses are priced at most of the amount for a full-size bus and are rarely cost effective. Consider vans instead (see below).

WHERE TO RENT:
If you are searching for companies on the web or in your phone book, be aware that the kind of bus you are looking for may be referred to as a "tour bus," "coach," "tour coach" or "deluxe motor coach." Consider also searching for both "rental" and "leasing." You may also find them at local companies that rent limos.

Some nationwide bus/coach charter/rental resources include:

  • www.usabuscharter.com 800-979-4498 x102; fax 858-509-8909; owner: Chuck
  • www.coachquote.com 866-697-5263; Nathan, ext. 120
  • www.busbank.com/privateGroups.cfm
  • www.BusRates.com

If you can find a small local company, it may be easier to contact and also less expensive.

PLAN YOUR BUDGET:
If you book a bus for four days (travel on Friday, with return after lobbying on Monday), 50 passengers would each have to contribute $80 toward a $4,000 total, based on a hypothetical rate of $1,000/day including tax, tip, surcharges and driver's motel.

Previous experience has shown that it can be difficult to predict passenger intentions: Many confirmed passengers fail to show up and many, many book only in the last day or two. You may consider getting donations in advance to discourage cancellations and keep from taking a financial loss on the rental.

Obviously you could reduce your rental charges by traveling early Saturday and/ or returning Sunday night. If you are close to D.C., another cost-cutting measure, especially for those wishing to lobby on Monday, would be to use the bus only to drop you off for the rally and then pick you up on Sunday or Monday. That way you would not be paying for full days of use or for the driver's motel. This plan assumes available transportation from local hosts while in D.C., etc.

To protect yourself and your group in case there is any dispute with the bus company, try to pay via credit card. Some companies also provide for payment via PayPal.

SHOP AROUND:
Local outfits often offer better prices than large national companies (and are easier to contact). You may be able to negotiate reduced prices if booking multiple buses.

PLAN SAFETY:
If you do book from a small, local company, check their safety record. You can request it from the US Dept. of Transportation (tel. 202-366-4000), or from your state DMV. As stated above, try to rent a recent model year and inspect the bus and the company's office long before the trip.

PLAN YOUR SCHEDULE:
If you are more than a couple of hours from D.C., you should plan on traveling on Friday in order to be there for the Saturday morning rally. Keep in mind that many travelers will wish to return on Sunday, while others may want to stay for the lobbying on Monday. If your group is booking several buses, perhaps their return schedule could be staggered so that people could leave on either day.

If you are traveling a very long distance, note that bus drivers are only allowed to work for about ten or twelve hours a day, including their travel time to pick up the bus and then pick up your group. Plan accordingly. If you do keep the driver with you all day, don't burn him out; keep him on your side with limited side trips and few last-minute changes.

CONSIDER VANS:
For smaller groups, or if you cannot book a bus, vans may be a good option. With at least seven people in an inexpensive minivan and about twelve in a "passenger" van, vans can cost less per person and allow for more flexibility to deal with last-minute changes, as well as more versatility on-site. Unlike buses, you can reserve vans through a car rental company without penalty for cancellation. They also offer the advantage of being available for off-hour use at your destination, when bus drivers are off duty. You will need to plan on vehicles being rented by mature, licensed drivers with a clean record and good credit on a major credit card. You should also figure into the rental price the cost of extra insurance, as needed, to cover your travelers.

WHAT TO BRING:

  • Bring signs and banners as well as literature, tables and chairs for tabling (tour buses have vast storage compartments at the outside bottom of the bus).
  • Encourage all travelers to bring their cell phones and make sure you have all their cell phone numbers!
  • If you have a long trip, encourage travelers to bring snacks and water. Either way, dedicate one seat of the bus for the group's own supply of water, etc.
  • If your bus has a VHS or DVD player, consider bringing pertinent materials for the ride down and entertainment for the ride back -- it really helps on long trips.

Travelers should be reminded to bring:

  • comfortable shoes (for lots of marching and standing!)
  • umbrellas
  • sleeping bags for those who may be crashing on a host couch.

PLAN FOR PERSONNEL:

  • Identify experienced volunteers who can act as bus "captains," and be responsible for making sure people have a plan to meet up after the event. Distribute to all these captains pages with the cell phone numbers of all other captains and all bus drivers. Each captain should have a spreadsheet with the contact info for all the travelers on his or her bus.
  • Print an itinerary for events and meeting points and distribute this to all travelers.
  • Generate a spreadsheet of all travelers' contact info & preferences (allergies, smoking, etc.) if using host accommodations.

Individual Budget:

  • Bus contribution: $50.00
  • Water: $ 1.00
  • Helping send a message to America: priceless

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