—LDS Missionary Note: The Saunders Brothers both served LDS Missions; Paul served in Perth, Australia and Steve served in Las Vegas, Nevada.—
Washington, D.C. is notorious for its awful beltway traffic. Commuters are familiar with the hot spots in the daily traffic reports. “There are backups at the I-95 interchange,” “it slows around the Mixing Bowl,” and “Watch for stopped vehicles between Georgia Avenue and the Mormon temple.”
That’s right. It’s hard to be a commuter in Washington, D.C. and not know how hard it is to fight traffic to get to the temple.
Enter the Saunders Brothers, Paul and Steve, Washington, D.C. natives from the Mount Vernon Stake, two men who saw a problem and set out to fix it.
The story begins in in January 2011, after a stake temple night. Both brothers were DC temple workers at the time. They noticed there was low attendance from their stake at the temple that night. Even though the Mount Vernon Stake is only roughly 23 miles from the temple, it can take anywhere from 1-2 hours to make the drive during rush hour, and that’s assuming vehicle occupancy restrictions work in your favor.
The brothers realized one of the biggest obstacles people faced in getting to the temple on a weeknight was that the Metro system doesn’t extend out to the temple. And navigating the beltway can take too long. They wondered if it was possible to overcome the Metro and traffic problems and joked about just extending the Metro yellow line to the D.C. temple. But then realized, it would be far more practical to create a shuttle from the red line that could bypass the beltway altogether.
With a heart set in the right direction, and wanting to help fill the temple, they imagined large bus loads coming from the Metro. Within a week they had registered the www.templeshuttle.org domain name.
A Shuttle is Born
After their initial brainstorm, they began to explore their options. They rode the Metro from the city to the temple to time how long it took on average to get to the temple during rush hour. They tested it with one brother on the Metro and one driving to see which took longer. They also timed driving from the temple to nearby Metro stops during rush hour from both sides of the red line.
One day when they tested Fort Totten, Steve metro’d to that stop and waited while Paul drove from the temple to pick him up. It was winter and especially cold that day. Paul took over half hour while Steve ended up waiting in a 7-11 due to the cold and because Paul took so long to come pick him up. From that, they were surprised that the Metro outperformed bad local traffic. From there they decided that the Forest Glen Metro stop would be the best option during rush hour.
Now that they knew where to run a shuttle from there were bigger hurdles to jump. How to fund it? Where to get a shuttle? Input from friends and advisors helped them set up a nonprofit, with Paul as the president.
Next, it was time to buy a shuttle. They searched quite a bit for shuttles. But in April 2011, just 3 months after the idea was born, Paul found a shuttle on eBay, decided it was the one, and bought it the same day. The brothers took a bus up to New York and stayed the night with cousins and the next day, April 9, 2011, took the train to Queens, paid $2,650 cash, and hoped the shuttle would make it home.
Read More at Meridian Magazine