Put yourself in the shoes of Pam Smith: she’s the off-campus property manager at Millennial Mansion, a luxurious 700-bed property located two miles from State University. She loves her job, enjoys working with millennial and Gen-Z residents, and provides an unmatched experience and property culture. Simply put, it’s the go-to housing for students in town. She works hard — especially on day-to-day activities such as addressing residents’ issues, processing work orders and differentiating the property from its competition — but she’s also increasingly tasked with driving more revenue and implementing effective marketing tactics such as virtual reality applications and catching the eyes of today’s students and their parents.
At the same time, the property’s shuttle operation is impacting her focus and taking up her time with recruiting and hiring drivers, addressing shuttle breakdowns and responding to resident complaints about volatile shuttle service. In all, the opportunity cost of heading off the driver shortage and shuttle maintenance issues is costing her time that would be better spent on property branding, resident experience and other high-return-on-investment initiatives.
That’s where Transportation Management Organizations (TMO) can step in to provide expertise and industry know-how. For instance, TransPar moves more than 6,000 off-campus residents to and from university campuses across the nation each day with clean, safe and reliable shuttle service. Instead of spending 40-60 hours per month on shuttle transportation, properties with TMOs can enjoy the benefit of having their staffs focus on what they know best — promoting, operating and leasing their properties.
Consider these three areas where TMOs can save time, leverage expertise, and provide an unparalleled service that makes the added-value amenity of a campus shuttle a huge draw (rather than a drawback) for the property.
Drivers and Training
Across the industry and the country, the transportation sector has recently seen a shortage of qualified, experienced and reliable drivers as wages have increased and credentialing has become more complicated. Driving commercial vehicles requires careful attention, and the risk and liability associated with moving students to and from campus is cause alone to employ a professional with the proper training, licenses and endorsements. TMOs know how to recruit, screen, hire, train and retain professional drivers who will meet requirements, show up regularly and on-time, and execute their work in line with expectations. In addition, these companies constantly recruit across the country so there’s no lag time between needing a driver and filling a position, as opposed to the weeks of time it may take a property manager to put out an ad for a driver, screen options and then hire someone.
Shuttle Acquisition and Management
It’s difficult enough to know your own car’s make, model and particular quirks, let alone a commercial vehicle that is responsible for carrying a dozen or more passengers. Since property shuttles often run daily and for many hours per day, they typically require more periodic maintenance and repair than other commercial equipment. TMOs are well-versed in the types of units, brands, makes, models, years and engines that are best suited for various types of shuttle service, especially if they must run very demanding service schedules. Additionally, newer and cleaner shuttles that run smoothly, are proactively maintained ahead of the maintenance schedule, and look as fresh as the housing properties they serve are most likely to boost resident satisfaction. From a technology perspective, TMOs can also monitor data analytics such as vehicle speed, timeliness of scheduled stops, and the idling times of shuttles to ensure that drivers are driving carefully, according to plan, and with efficiency in mind. By creating a fleet replacement plan, TMOs and property owners can ensure budgeted capital to replace their shuttles at the proper times rather than operating old vehicles that are beyond their end-of-useful-life. Further, TMOs can leverage their size and scope for purchasing power savings on the shuttles themselves.
It’s no secret that today’s students — especially among the millennial and Gen-Z cohorts — expect to know when their shuttle is arriving and to have an app to track it. TMOs provide these apps, as well as backend dashboards for property owners and managers, so that all stakeholders can access information about how the operation is performing. This is particularly helpful in states where inclement weather can make waiting outside for long periods of time for the shuttle an unbearable or unsafe undertaking. TransPar’s SafeStop app, for instance, can send in-app messages so residents know if a shuttle is running late, undergoing maintenance or being temporarily replaced by another shuttle. As the technology continues to improve, housing properties can implement a “ridership pass” through the SafeStop app to ensure that only their residents are using the shuttle and to track peak usage times throughout the day. Riders can also leave feedback so property managers can address driver job performance or shuttle maintenance before it becomes an issue, all while boosting resident satisfaction.
Since she will no longer have to address shuttle breakdowns, absent drivers and last-minute emergencies that require attention, Pam is excited to gain back hours in her day to focus on the tasks she loves most. Her property owners are also regaining payroll hours previously spent on transportation-related responsibilities and are able to focus on getting “heads in beds” that drive top-line revenue, instead. The next time you’re facing the headache of volatile shuttle service and resident complaints, remember Pam, the Millennial Mansion, and what a TMO can do for your off-campus property.