Less is more

Destination Shuttle Services consolidates hotel shuttle service at LAX

By David Hubbard

Destination Shuttle Services (DSS), Los Angeles, CA, serves 13 hotels within 1.5 miles of LAX and operates 34 shuttle buses equipped with advanced GPS and Omnivex software.

The proposal Destination Shuttle Services (DSS), Los Angeles, CA, first presented in 2000 was strong enough to convince 13 competing hotels within a 1-1/2-mile radius of Los Angeles International Airport to buy into its idea for a singular consolidated and fully integrated shuttle bus service.

Five percent of all passengers traveling by air utilize hotel shuttle services for convenient transport to and from the serving airports. Based on the economic report prepared for 2008 by the Air Transport Association, 769.2 million travelers flew nationwide, meaning that more than 38,460,000 people used hotel shuttle bus service. LAX represents only 6.8 percent of the total number of people who rely on this service.

Conservative calculations based on the figures above indicate throughout the country more than 12,450,000 shuttle bus trips operate the old fashion way, initiated independently from each hotel with separate fleets. DSS suggests this number could be cut in half through creative management and programs like the one it has designed for the Los Angeles International Airport.

Purporting to be the first private green transit system in Los Angeles, DSS says its mission extends beyond basic transportation to encompass environment stewardship and greater community support.

Launched in 2000 after successfully creating and delivering the transportation plan for the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, DSS is the brainchild of Events and Transportation Associates, which formed in 1991 to serve highly secured and visible events. Its client list also includes the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA.

The communication system mounted in plain view on each vehicle provides passengers with location specific and dynamic information for onboard bus passengers arriving or departing.

The company formed DSS in response to a call from the City of Los Angeles for a trip reduction solution to and from LAX that would reduce congestion and emissions. This initial phase consolidated airport shuttle services for nine hotel properties and slashed more than 146,000 vehicle trips in the first year. DSS says service has since grown to 13 properties with 34 buses operating at a higher volume with greater efficiently than the prior combined 65 vehicles of various models and fuel types that each hotel operated independently from one another.

DSS took three specific steps early on that can significantly reduce emissions levels. It changed fuel systems, upgraded and updated the equipment and created a much more efficient business model. It also converted all the vehicles in the fleet from gasoline and diesel engines to a mix of CNG and propane powered buses.

These upgrades took the average bus model year of 1999 to 2007. Today the DSS reports its fleet transporting 2.2 million passengers yearly while trimming one million total miles of vehicle traffic in and around LAX. DSS says this move cut the number of bus trips by approximately 195,000, used 227,500 less gallons of fuel, and eliminated over four million pounds of CO2 emissions per year.

Technology improves service
LCD screens mounted inside the shuttles provide passengers with location specific and dynamic information for onboard bus passengers arriving or departing. GPS displays on public information kiosks at bus stops and load zones give the location of the bus in real time, and feature transit-style vehicle signage and audio announcement systems. The DDS software manages every vehicle each minute of every day.

In addition, kiosks placed in the lobbies of each of the partner hotels provide guests with information, including the arrival of the next shuttle along with the status of their flight — all made available through the use of Omnivex digital signage software and Microsoft Windows 7 location-based services.

The system essentially makes the shuttle service an extension of the hospitality experience guests expect from their hotel. Through the sale of advertising space within the digital content on the screens, Destination Shuttle Services says it has realized a new revenue stream and a tremendous return on investment.

Passengers better understood
DSS developed its proprietary trip reduction model to determine the highs and lows of passenger transportation needs throughout the day. The software alerts dispatch when to send more or less buses, which streamlines costs and reduces road congestion and emissions.

“Once we know the number of travelers at a hotel, and how many people we will move in a day, we can arrange for the best size bus and the ideal number of runs,” says Chief Executive Officer Jack E. Lott. “The goal is always to minimize the number of trips. We are utilizing our equipment more efficiently throughout the entire week.”

The technology enables DSS to track guest and passenger trends by the hour, day, week, month and year for each hotel, as well as determine specific demographics. For example, one hotel may cater predominately to international guests; another attracts regional business travelers; while another may serve only the family and leisure market.

The communication system mounted in plain view on each vehicle provides passengers with location specific and dynamic information for onboard bus passengers arriving or departing.

The information serves more efficiently scheduling and pairing passengers loads to traffic conditions, even though the furthest hotel DSS serves is only 1.5 miles from LAX.

GPS has improved to the point the driver has can now reset the system with a hit of a button to see the locations of buses on the other routes. Drivers are spending much less time on the radio, and it is safe and more efficient to make changes in a schedule or route.

“The 1.5 million miles per year DSS buses travel derive from round trips of no more than three miles,” says Lott. “Over a year the short distances add up. We still take out over six million pounds of CO2 and reduce the number of hotel trips by 55 percent.”

DSS concedes its system is very complex and has taken a long time to implement, but the company has eliminated deadhead miles.BR