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New Bus Service Caters to College Club-Goers

BU alums’ Boston Nightlife Express takes off

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With the thermostat hovering in the 20s last Friday night, BU alums Ryan Kaplan, Eric Pasinski, and Jonathan Castillo gingerly applied a sticky sign the size of a giant toboggan to the side of a charter bus. They were shooting for zero bubbling and a level presentation, and they nailed it. Castillo squeezed out extra air with a yardstick.

“This is the most stressful part of our night,” Kaplan (SMG’11) said with a laugh.

That’s quite a statement, considering that their new business, Boston Nightlife Express (BNE), involves shuttling buses of college students to and from Boston nightclubs and adhering to tight schedules despite unpredictable traffic—all while wearing the hats of promoter, market researcher, bouncer, and businessman.

BNE launched Veterans Day weekend, initially serving only Boston University students. Having turned a profit by its fourth run, the alumni now provide rides to Emerson College students going to parties in Allston. And this night they have begun service for Endicott College students, busing them from Beverly, Mass., and back, with plans to expand to more universities, like Boston College in late February and Tufts and Brandeis shortly afterwards.

“There’s not much to do out there,” says Nahant native Pasinski (SAR’11), referring to Endicott. “Kids are dying to get into Boston.”

Many of the young entrepreneurs’ decisions are made on the fly. Just after 10 p.m., as their driver, Alex Bien-Aimé, inched along Comm Ave in heavy traffic after a men’s hockey game, they abruptly changed the pickup spot for their first group, a private party. Pasinski got off the bus in the stop-and-go traffic to corral partygoers as Bien-Aimé made an impressive U-turn.

Boston Nightlife Express bus, BNE bus, Boston clubs

Ryan Kaplan (SMG’11) (left) and Pasinski collect bus fares from BU students for a trip to Umbria.

With the bus parked in front of 1055 Commonwealth Ave., Kaplan joined Pasinski outside as a couple of dozen BU students fumbled for cash or cards to pay. (Private parties pay a negotiated rate per person. Public riders pay $5 each way. That fare falls to $1 for a one-way to Boston after midnight.) Meanwhile Castillo (SMG’11) tinkered with the CD player, coaxing it to blast music as the first customers boarded.

Women in high heels and short skirts clicked up the stairs. Men bounded up in jeans, dress shoes, and button-down shirts. Soon the bus swayed gently as partygoers danced in the aisle.

A roar rose from the crowd as the last guest entered. Dressed in a sleek black suit and black and neon yellow sunglasses, Keshav Agnihotri (SMG’12) was the man of the hour: the bus was taking him and his friends to Umbria in downtown Boston to celebrate his 21st birthday.

This night, the students wanted only one-way transportation. But, Kaplan said, BNE does offer private party packages (around $2,000, depending on the club) that cover round trips and special deals, like an entire floor reservation.

Once everyone was aboard, the BNE cofounders slipped into their business roles. Castillo diligently guided Bien-Aimé, shouting into his ear while referring to his iPhone for directions. Dubbed DJ Smooth, he is also in charge of music and multimedia. During the week, he lives in New York, where he works on another start-up, called Regents Help, which prepares high school students for state-mandated exams. People person Pasinski danced in the aisle with customers. He has a full-time marketing job with American First Aid, a national company that provides first aid and safety training for businesses. And Kaplan, a real estate developer with the Martin Group in Manhattan, kept an eye over it all from the front of the bus. “I’m the one who’s going to lose his hair first,” he said with a broad grin.

Kaplan and a team of School of Management students hatched the idea for the shuttle service in an entrepreneurship class senior year. Each of the students had horror stories about taxi rides home after a night of clubbing. They were tired of paying exorbitant fares and waiting in the cold for long periods (Kaplan’s record is an hour and a half). Their idea was voted best in the class, but only Kaplan wanted to pursue it after graduation. He recruited Pasinski and Castillo (both entrepreneurs and college friends), and the trio began work on BNE last summer.

Looking over the sea of dancing BU students, Kaplan said, “Our customers are always the happiest customers.” As if on cue, Agnihotri screamed, “I love you.”

“See!” Kaplan said, raising his eyebrows.

Boston Nightlife Express bus, BNE bus, Boston clubs

Castillo (from left), Kaplan, and Pasinski as a passenger exits at Umbria.

Prodded by Kaplan, Pasinski grabbed the bus microphone as they approached Umbria. He saluted the birthday boy before launching his pitch.

“We are here—time to party!” he crooned in a deep voice. “We are the Boston Nightlife Express. Please check out bnebus.com for our weekly Friday schedule.”

After a 20-minute trip, the bus pulled up in front of Umbria and the raucous crowd filed off into the chilly air. Agnihotri found out about the bus service, he said, through a socially connected BU friend, one of several paid BNE promoters.

“It was a blast!” Agnihotri said before joining his long line of friends.

Spreading the word about BNE has been the alums’ biggest challenge. SMG lecturer Erik Molander, who taught Kaplan’s entrepreneurship class, helped them eventually connect with promoting firm 6one7 Productions, which has a close relationship with Boston clubs and brokered deals with places like Gypsy Bar and the Estate, where BNE customers can avoid lines and get free or reduced entry.

With the Umbria partygoers safely delivered, Castillo turned down the music and Bien-Aimé steered the bus back to the Charles River Campus. “How are we doing on time?” Castillo asked. “I think we’re just on time,” Kaplan answered.

Sure enough, the bus pulled up in front of the School of Hospitality Administration on schedule at 11:15 p.m. for its only public ride into Boston that night. (Barring a private party booking, the service usually offers two runs into Boston on Friday nights and at least one run back to campus.) Five men—some of them friends of Kaplan’s—paid, got on the bus, and sat toward the back. After waiting a couple of minutes, Bien-Aimé began his route to Gypsy Bar.

“All right, you guys,” Kaplan said to the small crowd. “You’ve got a private bus to yourselves.”

Castillo kept the music low as he, Pasinski, and Bien-Aimé talked about the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl prospects. They still had a final 1:40 a.m. pickup round to go, shuttling Emerson students returning from Allston to Boston and gathering BU students for a final ride back to the Charles River Campus and Harvard Street. That last round, they said, is usually the busiest of the evening.

Whether packed with party revelers or just a few club-goers, BNE is rolling along.

25 Comments
Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

25 Comments on New Bus Service Caters to College Club-Goers

  • Santiago Gomez on 01.27.2012 at 5:35 am

    Wow!!!! This really makes me proud of the entrepreneurship that is coming out of BU’s School of Management. This is one of those ideas that makes one wonder “why didn’t I think of that?” Best of luck to BNE, and I will certainly be a customer when I return from abroad.

  • Angela on 01.27.2012 at 8:59 am

    Not only this is convenience, cheaper, but often safer for these students to go out at evening.

  • Jen Sullivan on 01.27.2012 at 9:47 am

    Nice to see BU ingenuity at work. They should teach the MBTA a thing or two!

  • Cassanndra on 01.27.2012 at 11:23 am

    As a parent of a BU student i am DISGUSTED to see that the universitys money is going to fund things like this? Funding the game of dangerous binge drinking is not a good thing and I am going to make my son transfer!

    • Sigh on 01.27.2012 at 11:57 am

      I’m sorry, did you even read the article? This is a private company founded by recent BU graduates.

      • Cassandra on 01.27.2012 at 2:08 pm

        I respectfully disagree Sigh. Thanks for the comment thouhgh.

        • Sarah on 01.28.2012 at 5:56 pm

          1. You can’t disagree on a fact. BU doesn’t fund this company.
          2. If you haven’t raised your son to know that binge drinking is dangerous, that’s your prerogative.

    • Dan Buttle on 01.27.2012 at 1:06 pm

      Funded by a private company AND it takes drunk student drivers off the road.

      • Cassandra on 01.27.2012 at 2:09 pm

        no students have cars Dan. Nice try!

        • Michael on 01.27.2012 at 5:26 pm

          Cassandra, you’re really funny. Let us know how your son’s transfer works out for you.

        • DSink on 01.27.2012 at 10:42 pm

          My student has a car. So does his roommate. I’m thrilled to learn about this safe, convenient and inexpensive option. I wish the school would fund it. Unfortunately it does not.

        • joel on 01.27.2012 at 10:50 pm

          cassandra, you seem to think very poorly of your child and the BU student body. Go to Boston at night and you’ll see that drinking is the least dangerous thing going on after dark…

        • Kiki on 01.28.2012 at 5:32 pm

          Have you ever been to BU? Plenty of students have their own cars.
          Do us all a favor and stop trying to kid yourself into thinking you know what goes on at BU, and at colleges around the world. You obviously have no clue what is going on in the world.
          Furthermore, your ignorance and petty control issues are going to drive your son further away from you.

    • Michael on 01.27.2012 at 1:35 pm

      #1 Read the article. #2 Students rushing through the streets trying to stop cabs when under the influence is dangerous. #3 This service eliminates the need for drunk driving.

    • Chelsea on 01.27.2012 at 2:41 pm

      Don’t be ignorant. Binge drinking happens at every college. That is a personal choice and has nothing to do with a brilliant business plan.

    • anonymous on 01.27.2012 at 4:56 pm

      I think the point here is one where students end up drinking much more since they don’t have to worry about driving afterwards (similar to obtaining life insurance and going skydiving the next day :)

    • Em on 01.28.2012 at 12:18 pm

      Troll alert, guys.

    • You do that, parent! on 01.28.2012 at 6:55 pm

      you are going to make your son transfer because someone may actually have found a decent alternative to, say for instance, drunk driving and drunken mishaps? solely speaking for myself and not on behalf of the university… you go, mom!

      i’m sure whichever university your son might end up being forced to go to is totally safe with no access to alcohol. in fact, i’m sure your son is a truly virtuous person who will not touch alcohol till the age of 21 at the very least.

      seriously, let’s get a bit real. and while at it, get some of the facts straight too.

      happy chinese new year.

    • Deep sigh on 01.29.2012 at 11:17 pm

      I think that this service is an admirable idea as well as a great way for recent graduates to learn about the management of a business. As an over-21 student who likes to go out downtown, I understand that it does not require me to drink to a dangerous point. What IS dangerous is walking around the financial district at night, alone or with a few of your girlfriends, searching for a cab because they all get taken around 2 a.m. when the bars close. You need a reality check if you think your kid isn’t drinking while at college, and an even bigger one if you’d rather they engage in dangerous behavior just to get home at night.

    • Hah on 01.30.2012 at 1:05 pm

      Man. Cassandra sounds like one great parent who is both a great reader and competent of what goes on in colleges.

    • T on 01.31.2012 at 12:23 pm

      First of all, the comments are correct and BU does not ‘fund’ this company. Second, this company is helping those that ALREADY go to clubs to be safe about it. Third, if you think your son isn’t going to find friends that drink on any college campus, think again. Also, if your son is under 21, this doesn’t even apply to him.

  • Andrea on 01.27.2012 at 2:26 pm

    I hope my son comes up with such a great idea for his senior project and makes it a reality. Good luck boys on your endeavor. Truly found a niche.

  • Just Saying on 01.27.2012 at 4:44 pm

    Hey Cassandra on,

    At least you have a disenated drive who is sober, they make sure girls get home safely without night stalkers watching their every move to commit sex crimes.

    also the driver can give a time line as to what time the student was dropped off in case something do happen to him or her.
    someone has to watchout for the kids no matter what.

  • Proud Alumna on 01.27.2012 at 6:26 pm

    I appreciate and enjoy BU Today. This is a good article, but I have one suggestion. Please use the proper form of the word alumni (alumni, alumnus, alumna, or alumnae). Thank you!

  • Keith on 01.27.2012 at 10:07 pm

    A publication representing the university should make the distinction between alumni (plural masculine or inclusive), alumnus (singular male), alumna (singular female), or alumnae (plural female exclusive). That said, great story. Really happy to see this service succeeding. Safe alternatives > unsafe.

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