For most private colleges and universities, the cost of operating and maintaining a bus fleet solely for athletics transportation used to be prohibitive, even before the recent economic challenges. As costs for charter bus rentals have begun to soar and decreased enrollment has begun to diminish endowments, many private universities have started to think outside the box to meet athletics travel needs. Purchasing departments from multiple universities compiled comprehensive financial modeling, comparing the cost of charter bus rentals to lease-purchase options of bus fleets. The results of the cost savings analysis found opportunities for transportation and athletic departments to combine their efforts to improve student services, athletics opportunities, and more. This article discusses many of the components in play regarding such cost savings.
The decision to exchange charter bus rentals for the acquisition of a bus fleet should not be taken lightly. The wrong choice can put an entire university’s budget into jeopardy and delay other much-needed services for students. To determine what will be best for the university, decision makers must consider many moving parts when thinking about combining departments such as athletics, student affairs, facilities management, and the office of finance. All stakeholders must feel confident in all factors before moving forward with such an investment.
Having a team travel program carries multiple benefits; however, large buses designed to carry up to fifty-six passengers, with all the gear needed for any athletic event, are typically expensive to own and operate. This expense is probably why most colleges have continued to rent charters through the years, but owning a fleet of buses is no longer as cost-prohibitive as it had been previously. Leaders in the transportation industry have now designed a bus that is safe for student travel, comfortable for long trips, economical to operate, and easy to service. This new line of buses offers ease of maintenance combined with luxury amenities appealing to all stakeholders: purchasing supervisors, transportation administrators, athletics directors, marketing executives, and student services managers.
The re-designed buses can be acquired through lease-purchase agreements, and purchasing departments appreciate a total of acquisition and ownership costs that are half that of traditional motor coaches. Along with 40% fuel savings, such lease-purchase options can offer monthly payments that are roughly equal to the cost of a single charter bus rental. When considering the number of trips—and the number of charter buses needed per trip—the annual savings can quickly add up.
When not in use for athletics travel, the university’s department of transportation can use the buses for on and off-campus shuttling. When transportation directors need to service and maintain the buses, they have access to a network of thousands of warranty centers nationwide, compared to that of other bus manufacturers which may only have options to access basic preventative maintenance.
Move the Ball
Athletics departments value the luxury, comfort, and team building opportunities offered with this new line of buses. With upgraded sound systems, a range of colorful LED interior lighting options, and coaches’ tables to work out play-by-plays of the games, the journey can be as much of the college experience as a means of arriving. These buses include tray tables, individual reading lights, USB/110V charging ports, onboard Wi-Fi, high-comfort reclining seats with armrests, and an optional lavatory. When travel is this comfortable, athletes arrive ready to win.
The marketing department appreciates the ability to wrap the bus with university branding. The exterior of the bus functions as a billboard for all new students, competing schools, and community members. Everyone can appreciate the sleek look of the buses and how they represent the university.
When the buses are not in use for athletics events, student services enjoy the ability to offer shuttles for students, both on-campus and off. This flexibility of use allows for more on-campus green space and with more space for activities, rather than crowded parking lots. The multi-purpose buses can also give students the option to safely commute, spend the drive-time studying, and make environmentally friendly choices. With expanded bus service, students may have an option to attend campus activities instead of watching movies in their bedrooms alone. The service can allow all students to interact with each other, inviting residential students to welcome off-campus friends to the university grounds, as well. Such interactions increase students’ sense of connection to the college community, which can increase student retention. Some students find it challenging to make new friends, and these multi-purpose buses can help to create a college culture that supports its off-campus students; such support can increase students engagement and decrease student turnover.
The buses have become a prized possession of universities around the United States. Universities use them for recruiting, as a major part of game day, and for student activities of all kinds. Because these comfortable buses make a grand entrance, the students love riding in style to games, campus activities, and in shuttling for class time. Universities that trade charter bus rentals for a bus fleet find that they enhance their entire educational program from a recruiting standpoint. Students who have travel opportunities to and from athletic events, on and off-campus adventures, and basic transportation to and from classes are more empowered to enjoy their entire college experience.
Students who experience the convenience of buses tout their program’s travel benefits to their friends and family. Merely mentioning the availability of a campus shuttle service is often an incentive for prospective students. Imagine what an affordable, multi-purpose bus fleet could do for your campus community.