PALM HARBOR -- Bus delays continued to mar the Florida delegation’s RNC experience.
After Tuesday night’s festivities ended after 11 p.m., many delegates were forced to wait 30 minutes to board buses that took them to Raymond James Stadium. They then had to wait another hour or so to board a second set of buses, which took them to the Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort more than 50 minutes away.
"It was a disaster," said Karen Dove, a 55-year-old from Brevard County who didn’t get back to Innisbrook until after 3 a.m. "It got so bad that people revolted. They actually got off the bus and took a cab."
The late night delays were the latest in a series of mishaps that have raised questions about how the Republicans have planned to move delegates, but also underscored the exceptional challenges of moving people around a sprawling metropolitan Tampa Bay area that lacks a comprehensive mass transit system.
Earlier Tuesday, buses taking the Florida delegates to the RNC’s opening events were 30 minutes late. Then the lead bus got lost after taking a wrong turn, causing another hour delay until the driver was able to get back on course.
During a morning breakfast with the Florida delegates, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said things to needed to improve.
"The RNC needs to fix this bus problem," Putnam said. "As Florida goes so goes the election. We need to take care of our delegates."
On Wednesday morning, the Republican Party of Florida hired more buses to avoid similar problems for the remainder of the convention.
"I don’t have details on what happened with the GOP Express buses last night," said state GOP press secretary Kristen McDonald in an email. "They are completely operated by the RNC.
"RPOF has been working with Mears Transportation to provide buses for our delegation to and from RPOF events," McDonald said. "However, today we’ve taken it upon ourselves to increase the availability of our six Florida party buses, and will now have them available to take our delegates to and from downtown Tampa for the Convention. We want to make sure our delegates and guests are completely taken care of and do not have to be concerned about any future transportation issues."
But for out-of-town delegates like Dove, the inconveniences have already left her with a strong impression of Tampa.
"We don’t know why they chose this area," Dove said. "Orlando is easier to get around."