When President Reagan took the oath of office last January, Washington, D.C. celebrated with the kind of party it throws only once every four years. The inauguration was feted during a four-day extravaganza of receptions, cocktail parties, galas, and balls. Sleek limousines, carrying politicians, entertainers, and corporate chiefs became a dominant feature of the capital landscape.
The limousines of Manhattan DC Executive Transportation Inc., carried members of the Reagan Administration as well as executives from CBS, IBM, AT&T, 7-Eleven Southland Corp., Eli Lilly Co., Jockey International, Paine Weber, et al. Selected by the Inaugural Committee to carry the “Eagles,” those who have given $10,000 or more to the Republican Party and the state committee delegations, Manhattan DC Executive was anxious to provide first-rate treatment.
“It was a challenging assignment,” said company partner and president John Rosing. “We expanded our operation ten-fold, but careful planning and meticulous attention to detail ensured the excellent service our reputation is built on.” Such planning, by Rosing and partner Greg Golubin, has helped make Manhattan DC Executive Washington’s fourth largest livery company and prompted the Inaugural Committee to choose the company over eight competitors for the special assignment.
One of the Manhattan DC Executive’s assets in this case was Rosing’s experience coordinating a similar operation, with the Secret Service, the New York Police, and church officials, when Pope John Paul visited New York City. A second consideration was the company’s assurance that all drivers used for inauguration activities would be familiar with Washington. Rosing believes that this promise clinched the assignment because some drivers had experienced directional problems during the ’81 inauguration. “Traffic is horrendous during the inauguration,” said Rosing, “And entire sections of the city may be blocked off if the President’s or Vice-President’s motorcade is in the area. Drivers have to know alternate routes.”
An unexpected, but welcome, development facilitated some of the planning when Limousine & Chauffeur asked Rosing to participate in a panel discussion at the ’84 Show & Conference in Atlantic City. Introducing Rosing at the start of the seminar, executive editor Scott Fletcher announced that the company would need additional vehicles for the inauguration. “The response was tremendous,” Rosing said. “More than a hundred operators from all over the country offered to send limousines and chauffeurs familiar with the D.C. area.” Rosing accepted some of the offers and expanded his inauguration fleet to a hundred and twenty-nine vehicles.
Financial arrangements for the inauguration were made well in advance with clients pre-paying their reservations. The company required ten-hour a day, four-day minimum, reservations. Many of the customers actually used their vehicles from twelve to eighteen hours each day, often for 5 to 7 days. There were also other arrangements such as scheduling vans to pick up luggage for the many passengers who arrived by private plane. Rosing says one customer even requested an additional stretch for his maids.
As the four-day jubilee got underway, the schedule became grueling with three or four dispatchers working around the clock. To enhance communications, the company rented fifty walkie-talkies. “We relied on our standard two-way radios and cellular phones for communication inside the vehicles,” explained Rosing, “But the walkie-talkies allowed us to contact our drivers outside the cars. We were able to relay information on pick-ups at the galas and balls more efficiently.” Manhattan DC Executive also braced itself to respond to any potential crisis by arranging for twenty-four hour towing and mechanical service, a provision which paid off on four occasions.
The planning resulted in glowing passenger comments as well as the scheduling of four more assignments, each of which will require fifty or more limousines. Such additional work is welcome in a market Rosing regards as sporadic and subject to the city’s political calendar. Most D.C. clients are accustomed to using formals or sedans, according to Rosing, but he believes stretch-limousines are gaining in popularity. “We are developing a market for the stretch limo in this city,” he says. “We were the first D.C. operator to have a stretch in our fleet, and now we have the largest number of stretch limos.” The company’s success during the inauguration was a step toward new government and corporate accounts, as well as a showcase operation, viewed by millions of people across the country, from which the whole limousine industry can benefit.