Luxury Coach & Transportation

December 2018

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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Page 39 of 67

MOTORCOACHES: REGULATIONS Chicago Party Bus Law Ensnares Large Coaches Motorcoach charter and tour services are suffering collateral damage as part of the city's aggressive new rules. By Hal Mattern C HICAGO – What, exactly, is a party bus? at depends on where you are. In most cities, party buses are small limo-style buses that transport revelers on club crawls, allowing them to drink alcohol along the way. Some are rolling nightclubs complete with entertainment poles, strobe lights, and blaring music. But in Chicago, charter buses transporting senior groups to museums or conventioneers from the airport to their hotels also are considered by authorities to be party buses subject to strict city regulations. And that is causing problems for motorcoach operators. "It has had a tremendous impact on our industry," said Ibro Torlo, vice president of Signature Transportation in Arlington Heights, Ill. "Chicago has turned all buses into party buses." It started more than a year ago when, in response to a rash of shootings on party buses, the Chicago City Council passed an aggressive ordinance designed to crack down on illegal party buses and increase safety requirements for licensed bus operators. Broad Alcohol Policy But one provision of the law e†ectively turned charter and tour buses with teetotaling passengers into party buses. e provision requires all buses with 15 or more passengers to have cameras and licensed security guards if passengers are drinking alcohol onboard, or if the buses stop at locations that serve alcohol. Because everything from museums and theaters to ballparks and hotels — regular destinations for charter and tour buses — serve alcohol, buses dropping o† passengers at those locations are subject to the party bus law, even if their passengers aren't drinking. Failure to abide by the ordinance can result in Œnes as high as $10,000. "If I'm driving a knitting club with 81-year-old ladies to a Cubs game, I have to have a security guard onboard," said Torlo, whose company sends about 30 charter buses a day into Chicago. Since the ordinance o"cially took e†ect in June 2017, the motorcoach industry has been trying to convince city o"cials to revise the law to exempt charter and tour buses that don't serve alcohol onboard. ey say hiring a security guard can add $200 or more a day to the cost of a charter, which has to be passed on to their customers. If a tour was booked before the ordinance took e†ect but was taken afterward, the operator had to eat the added cost of the guard. "We explained (to city o"cials) that we got caught in the middle," said Cherie Hime, executive director of the Midwest Bus & Motorcoach Association. "I don't think they realized it." Even so, city o"cials are sticking by the ordinance, saying it has succeeded in reducing party bus violence. ey said in a March news release that since the ordinance went into e†ect, police have made 11 illegal weapons and narcotics arrests under the new rules. At the same time, gun violence and drug crimes related to party buses dropped throughout the city. Incidents involving shootings on buses dropped from six in 2016 to one in 2018, the release stated, and police issued 260 tickets to 37 companies resulting in $130,650 in Œnes. Motorcoach Operators Had No Say While members of the motorcoach industry say they support regulations to crack down on illegal party bus operators, they contend their industry has su†ered collateral damage from the Chicago ordinance. ey further argue the gun and drug arrests touted by the city had nothing to do with requiring guards on tour and charter buses. ey also note when the ordinance was being drafted, the motorcoach industry was not consulted and therefore had no input about the security guard provision. e Chicago Department of Business A†airs and Consumer Protection (BACP), which oversees the party bus ordinance, said in a statement to LCT Magazine the regulations "were put in place for the safety of both passengers and drivers. No one company is being targeted." e statement also said the ordinance doesn't require security guards on buses transporting school-age children because they are under the legal drinking age. But some 38 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LUXURY COACH & TRANSPORTATION DECEMBER 2018

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