News and Updates

April 05, 2024 News

This summer's RNC will require about 400 buses, a key part of the Milwaukee experience

About 400 extra buses will be cruising around the Milwaukee area when the Republican National Convention comes to downtown this July.

The transportation system for the July 15-18 event includes buses and shuttles plus golf carts and minibuses.

"Transportation is a key component of delegate and guest experience for a national convention of this size," said Elise Dickens, the chief executive officer for the Republican National Committee team that's organizing the event. "We have to move upwards of 50,000 guests throughout the week, so transportation is key to get our guests moved around from hotels and to the convention complex sites safely and securely."

Less than a half mile separates the downtown Baird Center from the Fiserv Forum, the bookends of the RNC venue "complex" with the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in between. Convention hotels will be located in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Brookfield, Racine, Kenosha, Lake Geneva, the Sheboygan area and downtown Madison, the Journal Sentinel previously reported.

About a third of the bus fleet dubbed the "GOP Express" will come from Wisconsin, Dickens said.

Leading the effort to source vehicles is Transportation Management Services, which according to a statement from President Mike Moulton has provided services for five of the last six Republican National Conventions. The company will use as many local and regional vendors as possible, he said.

Among the local companies is Oak Creek-based GO Riteway Transportation Group.

Brad Wallace, the company's director of sales and marketing, said the company has set aside more than 50 vehicles for the event. Most of them are full-sized motor coaches and some are mini coaches.

The buses will be used primarily for delegate transportation during the RNC, but the company will also help Transportation Management Services and the RNC host committee with transportation needs before and after the four-day event, he said.

Ahead of time, buses will be on the road so drivers can practice the routes they'll be taking with delegates on board. Those dry runs are necessary to ensure that the routes that may have been planned months or a year in advance are still open and the best option, he said.

He also expected a component of taking visitors to and from airports.

He estimated 75% to 80% of the GO Riteway drivers for the RNC will be locals.

The company has invested more than $2 million this year in technology, fleet improvements and recruiting and training in preparation for the RNC and other events the company is expecting to take place in Milwaukee in the coming months and years because of the convention's international spotlight on the city, he said.

"It's an investment in not only making sure that everything runs smoothly for that convention," he said. "It was definitely a catalyst for us to make some of these investments that not only are going to be around for the convention but beyond that — and years beyond that."

The RNC presents a second chance at such an opportunity, after the dashed hopes of the 2020 Democratic National Convention Milwaukee was supposed to host. The event ultimately became largely virtual in the coronavirus pandemic, leaving little need for transportation services.

"We had made all these preparations for that and were really looking forward to an incredible 2020 until the pandemic had other plans," he said.

This year feels a lot better.

He said the company sees its job not solely as moving people from one point to another but rather as part of their experience in Milwaukee. The drivers serve as ambassadors for the company and convention but also the city, he said.

"This is a gigantic commercial for Milwaukee that's going to be going on for an entire week in the media but it's also going to be taking care of face-to-face (interactions)," he said.

The company is also hoping to be part of this year's Democratic National Convention that takes place in Chicago in August.

The RNC-specific vehicles won't be the only ones on the road.

The Milwaukee Police Department is also seeking 25 golf carts to transport law enforcement members and supplies throughout the RNC security zones in addition to coach buses and school buses to transport law enforcement and others to and from venues from July 13 to 19, according to an invitations to bid.

While the exact number of buses needed is not yet known, the department anticipated that transportation for more than 4,000 people would be needed.

The RNC could include as many as 4,500 police officers from agencies outside of Milwaukee.