Party-goers get onboard free bus

Jim Porter is the designated driver of 2,000 Richmonders each weekend.

His service, “To the Bottom and Back,” shuttles riders from downtown Richmond to Carytown and back, three nights a week for 10 hours a night.

The buses, one painted a near radioactive green, and both out-of-commission school buses bought at auction, have been running since August 12th in an effort to combat drunk driving and connect two busy nightlife districts in the city.

“I had this dream about 20 years ago when my Dad would let me take his Winnebago out as long as we had a designated driver,” Porter said.

Last year Porter purchased a single bus, and with a fresh coat of paint, started the service for about $6,500. The paint cost more than the bus. He designed the service to fill a gap he saw in the GRTC, citing a Whitesnake concert he attended as a younger man, and the experience of not having correct change for the bus line.

Plus, the Chesterfield native has tour operator in his blood – his grandmother used to run a tour company that helped tourists see Richmond, and he knows the streets well.

To the Bottom and Back operates on donations and the support of sponsors such as The Tobacco Company, Cary Street Café and Loveland Distributing. Patrons hail down a bus Tax-cab style.

Sandy Appelman, Porter’s partner in the service and operations manager for Lion’s Paw Development Company,  said the loop takes the buses about 40 minutes, putting wait times at around 20 minutes with two buses running.

“We’re not as rigid as the transit system,” said Appelman. “We’ll make any stop along the route.” One bus has been outfitted with a GPS device allowing it to be tracked by computers and smart phones by going to the service’s website. Sponsors on the route become and automatic stop, encouraging riders to buy from those that fund the service.

“Sometimes people are forced to drink and drive, it’s a fact, and the consequences are too great” said Appelman. “We’re trying to eliminate that by offering an avenue for people to get home safely.”

Appelman and Porter said their service helps connect the residential and business sides of Richmond, and their goal is to help make the city more enjoyable by eliminating the dangers of going out. Porter sees his service as a parallel to the offerings of the GRTC, saying that what they provide for workers in the morning, he provides to Richmonders at night.

Nightly, To the Bottom and Back costs about $600 for two buses, including the wages for drivers and bus hosts. Appelman and Porter hope to expand to offer three buses, and expand a route to include Broad Street and Boulevard.

“We’re too car dependent as a city,” said Appelman. “People stay away from downtown because of traffic, safety risks, and the obvious dangers of drunk driving. Our goal is to eliminate these fears and help people enjoy the city.

Drew Jackson is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to [email protected]

Jim Porter is the designated driver of 2,000 Richmonders each weekend.

His service, “To the Bottom and Back,” shuttles riders from downtown Richmond to Carytown and back, three nights a week for 10 hours a night.

The buses, one painted a near radioactive green, and both out-of-commission school buses bought at auction, have been running since August 12th in an effort to combat drunk driving and connect two busy nightlife districts in the city.

“I had this dream about 20 years ago when my Dad would let me take his Winnebago out as long as we had a designated driver,” Porter said.

Last year Porter purchased a single bus, and with a fresh coat of paint, started the service for about $6,500. The paint cost more than the bus. He designed the service to fill a gap he saw in the GRTC, citing a Whitesnake concert he attended as a younger man, and the experience of not having correct change for the bus line.

Plus, the Chesterfield native has tour operator in his blood – his grandmother used to run a tour company that helped tourists see Richmond, and he knows the streets well.

To the Bottom and Back operates on donations and the support of sponsors such as The Tobacco Company, Cary Street Café and Loveland Distributing. Patrons hail down a bus Tax-cab style.

Sandy Appelman, Porter’s partner in the service and operations manager for Lion’s Paw Development Company,  said the loop takes the buses about 40 minutes, putting wait times at around 20 minutes with two buses running.

“We’re not as rigid as the transit system,” said Appelman. “We’ll make any stop along the route.” One bus has been outfitted with a GPS device allowing it to be tracked by computers and smart phones by going to the service’s website. Sponsors on the route become and automatic stop, encouraging riders to buy from those that fund the service.

“Sometimes people are forced to drink and drive, it’s a fact, and the consequences are too great” said Appelman. “We’re trying to eliminate that by offering an avenue for people to get home safely.”

Appelman and Porter said their service helps connect the residential and business sides of Richmond, and their goal is to help make the city more enjoyable by eliminating the dangers of going out. Porter sees his service as a parallel to the offerings of the GRTC, saying that what they provide for workers in the morning, he provides to Richmonders at night.

Nightly, To the Bottom and Back costs about $600 for two buses, including the wages for drivers and bus hosts. Appelman and Porter hope to expand to offer three buses, and expand a route to include Broad Street and Boulevard.

“We’re too car dependent as a city,” said Appelman. “People stay away from downtown because of traffic, safety risks, and the obvious dangers of drunk driving. Our goal is to eliminate these fears and help people enjoy the city.

Drew Jackson is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to [email protected]

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John Chewning
John Chewning
12 years ago

FANTASTIC! Mass transit / high speed rail / will never work without good intercity transportation. Charlottesville has a free ride down the main strip that works for patrons and the resturants. This makes great sense. I say tip generously when aboard!

EA
EA
12 years ago

Bravo!

Carter snipes
Carter snipes
12 years ago

Kudos to Sandy and Jim! Awesome service that should embraced by the City and supported by the business community!

Joan Izzo
Joan Izzo
12 years ago

This is an excellent idea. Entrepreneurial…and protective of citizen’s lives. Thank you for posting this story and giving some attention to good ideas that prevent a huge sadness with a lost life.

Linne Diiorio, CMP
Linne Diiorio, CMP
12 years ago

I love this idea. Thank you for pursuing your dream and making a difference for Richmonders. You two are heroes for making this happen and keeping our streets safe, while still promoting our fun nightlife offerings in the city. I’m going to tell everyone to look out for the big green bus. Keep up the great work!

C.C.
C.C.
12 years ago

Great concept….., especially now that Major Jones is removing GRTC from Broad St. and a few other downtown streets

Kevin A
Kevin A
12 years ago

Jim and the others that work to drive the buses are great people, everyone should give generously to keep this amazing service going!

JOE
JOE
12 years ago

This is a line is a joke, right? –

“Sometimes people are forced to drink and drive, it’s a fact”

Wow. I’d really like some examples of that – sounds like an excuse for drunk driving:
“Sorry I killed your daughter, I was forced to drink and I needed to get home”

trackback
The Fan District Hub » Blog Archive » To the Bottom and Back
12 years ago

[…] here to read the entire article by Drew Jackson at Richmond […]

Sandy Appelman
Sandy Appelman
12 years ago

Thank you all for the positive comments! We’re growing and trying to service as much of the community as we can. Daytime, weekend routes will also soon be available. Sponsors like SportsQuest, Star-lite, Koontz Paint & Body and many others in the community are making this possible!

lisa
lisa
12 years ago

Thanks for doing this. In many countries I have traveled in, public transportation is created by individuals, not just corporations and government. BRAVO!

thamesschool1
thamesschool1
12 years ago

Yes Fantastic Sandy your are proving a free bus to abroad trips, and your saying that it was your dream from your childhood. But one thing here our keyword is driving schools and I have no traffic from your site, so I am sorry to give a positive camment……..