Bus Problems Overshadow Convention Start

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

The Republican National Convention didn’t start on time because of a hurricane.  The problems experienced during what should have been the second day of the convention cannot be blamed on acts of God, but lie squarely on the poor planning of man.

Staging an event on this scale is a once in a lifetime event for many cities.  As such, there is little time to make test runs for many of the logistical plans.  A huge flaw in the Tampa plan was exposed on Tuesday in the form of its shuttle bus program, whereby delegates and media were transported from their hotels into the uber-secure green zone surrounding the Tampa Times Forum and the Convention Center.

The problems started with the morning runs, which were staggered based on the schedules of each delegation’s needs.  No bus was sent to the Florida delegation’s hotel, which was among the farthest away in Palm Harbor.  When their bus finally arrived in Tampa, it inexplicably turned away from the arena and circled for an hour, lost.

Part of the Georgia delegation experienced a similar fate, including myself.  The noon bus departing from our hotel left on time, but after driving for approximately 15 minutes, we returned to the hotel.  “The bus driver needs an address” was the message that drifted through the passengers as an explanation.  After we departed a second time, we circled the entirety of Tampa’s airport instead of taking a quick trip through a couple of interchanges that would have been a much more direct route. 

Upon arriving at the security perimeter, our bus was flagged for some sort of additional screening.  No complaints about that, as it’s an unfortunate reality in our modern world.  But after another extensive delay, we were re-routed around the arena and held briefly, just long enough for sunny skies to give way to a torrential downpour.  There were volunteers at the ready to provide umbrellas for the walk across a parking lot to the awaiting metal detectors and X-ray machines.

The return trip demonstrated a much larger logistical challenge, with all delegates needing return transportation as the convention ended around 11pm.  This larger challenge exposed a much larger failure.  Delegates were instructed to load most any bus.  Full busses were then held for departure, eventually making their way several miles to a parking lot at Raymond James Stadium (en route our driver managed to again get lost).  There, a bottleneck ensued as busses were unable to load or unload and lined up well down the highway.

This part of the process lasted almost 2 hours.  Two hours to be moved by bus 4 miles to a destination that wasn’t much closer to our hotel than where we left.  Some on our bus asked to be let off as we waited to approach the departure point, as they were parked at the stadium. The bus driver and assigned security personnel refused to allow it.

When finally allowed to disembark, we were first told we needed to choose one of three bus routes, with vague descriptions to choose from that meant little to out of towners.  When approaching a volunteer with a list of available busses to choose from and asking for our hotel, we were first met with a blank stare and then questions about their bus route names.  We finally borrowed her list and found the name of our hotel ourselves.  We then had to board another bus, wait for it to become full, and departed.

Mercifully, our hotel was the first stop for this run.  Door to door, it only took 2 hours and 45 minutes to go a total of 8 miles, arriving just before 2am.

As others gathered at a post-convention reception, other horror stories were traded.  Three hours and a half seem to be the “winner” for worst time, with multiple other stories of lost drivers abounding.

Instead of delegates discussing the speeches of Ann Romney or Chris Christie, most of the discussion was about busses.  Some of us found a bit of humor, as we had been documenting our trials via twitter.  Comments from the AJC’s Kyle Wingfield, delegates B.J. Van Gundy and Bryan Miller, and myself were included in an early morning story from Twitchy.com titled “Bus Hell: The RNC built it!”.

Today there will be more speeches.  For most of the Georgia delegation, as of the wee hours of this morning, there were not more busses in the forecast.  Fool us once…

19 comments

  1. Rick Day says:

    I understand this was a project Paul Ryan took on, so he could say he has some ‘infrastructure’ creds.

    Maybe next con you guys can get some corporate sponsored bus transportation.

    • rrrrr says:

      Well when you contract the GA TSPLOST transit crew to run operations

      Besides, they were just getting you acclimated to the Beltway approach…

  2. seenbetrdayz says:

    The Virginia delegation’s bus got so lost it missed the rules committee meeting. Virginia was one of the strongest states opposed to the new rules changes, led by nat’l committeeman Morton Blackwell. That’s probably just coincidence, right?

    Just an aside, is it possible to have more than two black eyes? ‘Cause the GOP leadership just keeps racking up.

    Meanwhile, some committee members suggested meddling was at play. A bus full of Virginia delegates arrived at the committee meeting – after it had adjourned.

    “The bus that was supposed to pick up the Virginia delegation arrived an hour later than it was supposed to,” explained Virginia delegate Morton Blackwell, a prime opponent of Rule 16.

    Blackwell continued: “And then when we went downtown, we went around the same series of blocks repeatedly – twice. And then the bus took out away from downtown, went about a mile and a half, and then did a u-turn and came back. And did another circuit, of the same place where we had been before. And at that point, the Virginia delegates demanded, ‘Stop the bus. And we’re going to walk.’ And we did.”

    Full story:
    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/28/rules-fight-sparks-drama-at-rnc/comment-page-1/

    • Rick Day says:

      Does this surprise you? Who do you think really runs those conventions? Find the culprit and follow the money.

      Then you will see who’s policy you are apologists for. If you dare.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        Not surprised at all. This is the nature of the beast. This is why I’ve said I hate politics with a passion, and at the same time, I’m scared of what will happen if I let the people who love politics continue on as they have always done.

        • Rick Day says:

          Technically, the ‘you’ was more generically directed to the readers and knuckle typers of this fine blog.

          But you get the drift…. Oh hey, gotta run.

          There goes my bu…..WAIT HEY STOP!

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      I’d modify and add this to previous post if I could, to minimize links. Before anyone thinks it’s just the RP folks, the Virginia Tea Party doesn’t seem very happy about it.

      There’s a rather humorous meme on the page if anyone is familiar with ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’

      http://virginia6th.teapartywatchdogs.com/2012/08/28/virginia-rnc-delegation-prevented-from-voting-on-rules-changes/

      That’s all I’m gonna link on this so I don’t get accused of spamming links.

      • Jimmie says:

        it’s pure coincidence! just like all the coincidences that occurred this Primary. I hope all the people screwed over by the RNC at every level have learned a good lesson. It’s just not the RP people that got bamboozled. Why the RNC decided to oust the Tea Party too is beyond explanation. Debbie Dooley was a good Republican throughout the process. Her performance at the State Convention should have earned her some points with the Power Brokers. Guess not.

    • saltycracker says:

      Being familar with services in Florida I’d say the probabilities are:

      Stupid/incompetent 80%
      Conspiracy 20%

      • Jimmie says:

        these bus drivers had one task. Drive from point A to point B. Both locations were predetermined well in advance. They evidently cleared security to bus the delegates. I’m guessing the Conspiracy percentage is much higher than 20%. Was it coincidence that Virginia, Rhode Island, Iowa and Minnesota delegates drivers didn’t know the route? All were in opposition to the Rule.

  3. Calypso says:

    Hey Charlie, if only there were some way you could MODIFY the bus schedules everyone would be happier.

  4. Bob Loblaw says:

    Hilarious! Y’all being stuck on the bus is karma biting you in the as$ for not supporting T-SPLOST! 😉

  5. saltycracker says:

    They have the TECO line streetcar financed by a special tax, they have the buses, a tollroad nearby, an interstate expressway, good parking, taxi’s and even boat docks at the center.
    What more could you ask for ? Good Grief !

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Get a transit map. Follow it. You’ll do better than on a charter bus hired by conventioneers.

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