This is a press release from the Northwest Motorcoach Assocation:
SEATTLE, WA — August 13, 2008 — Members of the Northwest Motorcoach Association (NWMCA) today announced a cooperative venture to provide fan shuttle service to and from Seahawk games at Qwest Field during the 2008 season. This unprecedented move by the regional association of private motorcoach operators comes on the heels of a decision by the Seahawks to not fund fan shuttles for 2008 home games.
The NWCMA plan offers transportation to Seahawk's games aboard private motorcoaches, as well as a new online booking system to secure shuttle tickets and reservations in advance. This service will be available to fans throughout the Puget Sound region and can include people from Portland, Yakima and Bellingham.
"Our members saw a need, so we collectively decided to make sure fans have secure, dependable and affordable transportation to Seahawk games," said Paul Downes NWCA President and President of RAZ Transportation. "Since the Seahawks decided against funding fan shuttles for this season, we felt this was a good opportunity to step in and provide a service many people rely on for getting to and from the football games. Using our environmentally-friendly motorcoaches means fans can avoid parking and traffic hassles, save on gas costs, and have a ready-made designated driver."
In the past, the Seahawks and King County Metro have underwritten the costs of game day shuttle services provided by Metro buses and drivers. This practice of private entities, like the Seahawks, using public transit agencies to provide charter services came to a halt in April 2008 when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) clarified its rules governing charter bus services. This update of the rules reaffirmed the FTA's 30-year-old position that public transit agencies cannot use federally funded assets to compete with privately owned motorcoach operators for charter service contracts.
This FTA rule clarification means that organizations, like the Seahawks, must stop turning to Metro and and King County taxpayer to provide charter services. Instead the FTA ruling requires that willing private operators be allowed to bid on the Seahawks' shuttle services.
One private bus operator, Starline Luxury Motorcoaches, did submit a bid to provide game shuttle services for the Seahawks 2008 season. However, the Seahawks rejected the bid, even though it mirrors the services provided by Metro to the Seahawks over the last few seasons.
"The Seahawks received a fully-responsive bid for all game day shuttles. The problem seems to be that the Seahawks do not want to pay market rates for transporting their fans," said Gladys Gillis, CEO of Starline Luxury Motorcoaches and former president of NWMCA. "Since the Seahawks were given steeply discounted rates from Metro for charter services, fans and taxpayers had to make up the difference between the discounted rates and the actual costs for running the shuttle buses. In comparison, the cost for private motorcoach companies, like mine, to provide the shuttle service without benefit of monies from the Seahawks or taxpayer subsidies is $12.50 each way—which is still a bargain when you consider the cost of gas and parking near the stadium."
Enter the NWMCA's plan. The shuttle services start for the first regular season home game on September 14 and will continue through the post-season. Departure times are 2 hours prior, and again 45 minutes prior to kickoff. Fans will be picked up at one of five locations across the region. Fans that want to book their tickets should visit www.gettoqwest.com starting September 1. Tickets are $12.50 one way and must be purchased 48 hours in advance. Anyone needing ADA accessibility will be able to indicate their needs on the website at time of ticket purchase.
"We are eager to make this work for Seahawk fans," concluded Tom Casazza, Vice President of NWMCA. "Seahawk fans are known throughout the NFL for their loyalty and loud support of their team. And we believe they deserve transportation to get them to the games to cheer the Seahawks on."