Five UW-Madison industrial engineering students, Kyle Brown, Tom Best, Ross Glodowski, Matt Kopetsky and Silas Bernardoni, attended an end-of-the-year barbeque last spring when they threw around the idea of one day owning a bus. The desire was not just to own any bus, but rather a bus that could elevate the spirit of Badger game days to a whole new level.
It did not seem like any of them would actually follow through with their slightly intoxicated plans, but the students all loved Wisconsin football and wanted to indulge in something that could become a legendary mark on campus.
UW-Madison senior Silas Bernardoni played a big part in making the dream come true. Through his family's business, Bernardoni was able to test ride a short bus and buy it for $2,000 the same day. The bus was rough around the edges and definitely needed a tune up, but no one could estimate how much work it would actually take. Transforming an old black and yellow handicap bus into a symbol of a Badger super fan was the hardest part of making the Badger Short Bus become a reality.
The bus now fulfills the owners' vision, painted red and white with a white W"" as a pop-out stop sign. Speakers fold out from the inside of the bus to hang outside the windows, allowing rowdy students and fans to hear the pumping techno down the street. They even transformed the old handicap wheelchair ramp into a keg lift. Best said the decoration of the bus is perfect.
""It's all about the little touches,"" Best explained.
Although the decoration took an extremely long time to coordinate and complete, the planning of the organization on wheels took even longer. The total amount of work behind the Short Bus cannot be estimated by merely looking at it.
Bernardoni said, ""For every four hours of organization for the bus, there was only one hour of actual manual work.""
To help prevent liability issues with the bus and to help pay for some of the costs, the five owners created their own business called The Short Bus Brigade, LLC. The company accepts donations from various friends and family members. Donations are used to pay for gas and maintenance.
Although not necessary, most students offer around $3 to the owners after riding. With a little wave of the hand or a simple shout, the Short Bus can be flagged down for a ride. It picks up whichever tired fan needs a lift from a pre-game party to the stadium or whoever wants to enjoy the ride. The few dollars from each individual largely contribute to paying for gas on the road, which the drivers appreciate.
Not only has the Short Bus made its mark in Madison, but it has also traveled to other Big Ten campuses. The bus has made trips to Penn State, Illinois and Ohio State so far this year.
Each owner takes shifts driving the bus, while stopping overnight at cheap hotels and fast food restaurants. According to Bernardoni, the bus fit almost 30 people on the way to Penn State. Bernardoni also said gas costs about $3 dollars per gallon and the bus can only cover 5 mpg. Inevitably, traveling to away games can be extremely expensive.
The owners have started to advertise the Short Bus by handing out red T-shirt that say ""I rode the short bus"" and by adding their name to Wikipedia. According to several of the owners, however, the Short Bus has had issues maintaining their name on the website. Somehow, the administrators of Wikipedia continue to delete the Badger Short Bus Brigade from the site. But the owners want to fight to keep their name visible.
""Every day we are going to allocate one of the five owners to check to make sure that our name is still on,"" Bernardoni said half jokingly.
Two weeks ago the Short Bus took part in the homecoming celebration by driving in the parade, where hundreds of students were exposed to the Short Bus if they had not already seen it on campus.
""It was really great because we were right in front of the band, so everyone's attention was on us for a large part of the parade,"" said Best.
The Badger Short Bus' presence is certainly growing. Even vendors around the stadium appreciate the bus on game day - Stella's Bakery stand gives the riders a free loaf of warm bread when they pass by.
""We like to call it the Friend Maker 5000