Freeway Management and Operations Handbook
Chapter 11 – Planned Special Event Management
A planned special event is a public attended activity or series of activities, with a scheduled time and location that may increase or disrupt the normal flow of traffic on affected streets or highways.
Planned special events include sporting events, concerts, festivals, and conventions occurring at permanent multi-use venues (e.g., arenas, stadiums, race tracks, fair grounds, amphitheaters, convention centers, etc.). They also include less frequent public events such as parades, fireworks displays, bicycle races, sporting games, motorcycle rallies, seasonal festivals, and milestone celebrations at temporary venues. The term planned special event is used to describe these activities because of their known locations, scheduled times of occurrence, and associated operating characteristics. Emergencies, such as a severe weather event or other major catastrophe, represent special events that can induce extreme traffic demand under an evacuation condition. However, these events occur at random and with little or no advance warning, thus differing from "planned" special events. (Freeway management during such emergencies and evacuations is discussed in the next chapter).
A planned special event represents a trip generator; thus the impact an event has on transportation system operations as a whole must be examined. This includes freeway operations, arterial and other surface street operations, transit operations, and pedestrian flow. Unlike roadway construction activities or traffic incidents that impact travel within a single corridor, a planned special event impacts all corridors serving the event venue location.
11.1.1 Purpose of Chapter
The FHWA technical reference Managing Travel for Planned Special Events (Reference 1) presents and recommends various planning initiatives, operations strategies, and technology applications that satisfy the special customer requirements and stakeholder performance requirements driving planned special event travel management. This chapter summarizes that reference, highlighting the essential elements involved in managing traffic during planned special events.
Reference 1 guides users through all phases of managing travel for planned special events, from the earliest planning stage through post-event activities, via the provision of recommended procedures, flowcharts, tables, and checklists. The technical reference bridges the gap between the state-of-the-practice and state-of-the-art in managing travel for planned special events by providing:
Reference 1 is aimed at assisting responsible agencies in managing the ever-increasing number of planned special events impacting transportation system operations in rural, urban, and metropolitan areas. It communicates to a wide audience that includes the novice planned special event practitioner, the experienced planned special event practitioner, the local, single-jurisdiction event planner and operations manager, and the regional, multi-jurisdiction event planner and operations manager.
Reference 2 (NCHRP Synthesis 309: Transportation Planning and Management for Special Events) reports on the state-of-the-practice of transportation-related activities associated with the planning and management of special events.
11.1.2 Relationship to Other Freeway Management Activities
Freeways are often the primary corridor flow routes that serve event patrons and participants destined to / from a planned special event and various areas of a region and beyond. These corridor flow routes connect to local, street-level flow routes that, in turn, serve event venue parking areas. A freeway interchange marks a point of connection between corridor flow routes and local flow routes.
The main objective of freeway management during planned special events is to minimize freeway mainline congestion. Freeway management and operations strategies implemented in response to local traffic flow or ramp operation degradation preserve freeway mainline operations. Freeway management for planned special events involves interchange operations and metering (Chapter 7), traveler information dissemination (Chapter 13), transportation management centers (Chapter 14), and traffic surveillance (Chapter 15). Other keys to success include achieving regional operations collaboration and cooperation (Chapter 16), deploying managed lanes (Chapter 8) to improve freeway safety and operations efficiency, and implementing traffic incident management (Chapter 10) techniques and strategies. Moreover, like all programs and activities that are intended to improve the operation of the transportation network, the performance of a traffic incident management program should be regularly monitored and assessed (Chapter 4), potentially resulting in changes and refinements.
Planned special events pose a unique and diverse set of challenges to stakeholders charged with maintaining transportation system safety, mobility, and reliability. These challenges include:
Managing travel for planned special events encompasses both a local and regional level. The local level involves managing travel for one planned special event. The regional perspective concerns proactively improving travel management for all planned special events occurring in a region where, in most major U.S. metropolitan areas, hundreds of planned special events occur annually.
The goals of managing travel for planned special events involve achieving predictability, ensuring safety, and maximizing efficiency. The characteristics of a planned special event that define the level of event-generated trips, coupled with the event venue location and scope of available transportation system capacity, collectively may yield unpredictable impacts on travel without proper planning and analysis. Operations, with safety an overarching criteria, during the event can improve transportation system efficiency of operation. With the foreknowledge of a planned special event and the early initiation of planning efforts, practitioners can achieve efficient transportation system operations even with the additional traffic generated at and adjacent to the event venue.
The successful implementation of a transportation management plan for planned special events results in lessened traffic congestion and improved safety for event patrons and other transportation system users. Successful transportation management also maintains satisfactory mobility levels for residents and businesses in the vicinity of the event venue and preserves the overall reliability of the local and regional transportation system. Achieving this success requires the involvement of both transportation system operators and other stakeholders, representing various interests and disciplines, to meet the needs of the community and region.
220.127.116.11 Planned Special Event Classification
A planned special event impacts the transportation system by generating an increase in travel demand in addition to possibly causing a reduction in roadway capacity because of event staging. The first step toward achieving an accurate prediction of event-generated travel demand and potential transportation system capacity constraints involves gaining an understanding of the event characteristics and how they affect transportation operations. In turn, practitioners can classify the planned special event in order to draw comparisons between the subject event and similar historical events to shape travel forecasts and gauge transportation impacts. Figure 11-1 shows typical operational characteristics of a planned special event. Each characteristic represents a variable that greatly influences the scope of event operation and its potential impact on the transportation system.
Five categories of planned special events, and their general characteristics, are listed in Table 11-1. The table also indicates major event examples that require significant advance planning and stakeholder coordination to efficiently manage transportation system operations.
Communities and regions have promoted and supported planned special events to boost tourism and fuel local and state economies. Public agencies can enhance the image of their area by adopting a planned, coordinated, and integrated approach toward managing travel for planned special events that minimizes traffic congestion, maintains transportation system reliability, and exceeds the customer service expectations of all road users. Benefits to transportation stakeholders and transportation system operators include:
11.2.3 Key Considerations During Freeway Management Program Development
The task of managing travel for planned special events incorporates advance planning, management, and evaluation activities encompassing five distinct, chronological phases summarized below.
Integration of these five phases creates a seamless process allowing for continuous improvement of transportation system performance from one planned special event to the next. Therefore, phased integration meets the challenge of managing travel for planned special events on a regional level. Moreover, the planning, implementation, and traffic management activities for planned special events should also be coordinated with other transportation process, including regional / statewide transportation planning, developing a regional ITS architecture, and developing a freeway management and operations program as discussed in Chapter 3.
A regional planned special events program is an ongoing process designed to address a region's needs for managing special events. The program involves those agencies that have a role in managing planned special events as well as that may have an oversight or funding role. The program will put into place a framework for handling all planned special events in a region. This would include a template for groups created to deal with specific special events, identification of funding to support such planning, and identification of infrastructure improvement needs in the region to better manage special events.
A comprehensive freeway management program should include a committee on planned special events, comprised of stakeholders that have achieved interagency coordination through past, cooperative travel management efforts. Stakeholder representatives personally know one another, and agencies have knowledge of the resources and capabilities of each committee participant. Stakeholders commonly include traffic operations agencies, law enforcement, transit agencies, event organizers or venue operators, and the media. Committees in metropolitan areas may create task forces for specific planned special event venues or recurring large-scale events. The committee or task force generally meets and performs event operations planning tasks on an as-needed basis. The group may also convene regularly (e.g., weekly, monthly, or quarterly) to review program planning efforts or future planned special events.
The institutional and political environment surrounding special events is an important consideration, and should not be underestimated. Quite frankly, special events are often very politically charged. The organizers may not have the budget required to implement the types of mitigation activities needed to keep traffic flowing, or they may not want to spend much money on traffic mitigation. Moreover, it is not unknown for organizers to use their political influence at any suggestion of a "process slowdown" or comprehensive traffic mitigation requirements. The traffic manager is caught in the middle – if there is a slowdown, he /she gets criticized; and if there is not enough traffic control/mitigation, he/she gets criticized from the public and often the event organizer who didn't want to hear about traffic impacts during event planning. Even a good permitting process often doesn't resolve this issue. It is therefore critical that the practitioner be aware of this situation, and plan for it in the freeway management and operations program whenever possible. In other words, work with event organizers on traffic mitigation; but also have some contingency resources available in able to do what is needed.
18.104.22.168 Evaluation and Assessment
The FHWA Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Self-Assessment tool (Reference 3, and also discussed in Chapter 10 herein) contains a TIM administrative team assessment question on planned special events – specifically question 22.214.171.124. This question asks: "does the assessed TIM program conduct planning for 'special events' including sporting events / concerts / conventions, etc.?" The tool includes several assessment questions potentially applicable to measuring a program's progress regarding the advance planning and management of travel for planned special events. Table 11-2 lists pertinent assessment questions categorized by the five defined phases of managing planned special events.
11.2.4 Relationship to National ITS Architecture
Management of planned special events is not specifically identified in the National ITS Architecture, other than the traffic incident management market package, which treats both unexpected incidents and planned events. In many respects, the activities associated with managing planned special events overlay much, if not all, of the "links and sausage" diagram (previous Figure 3-4). Moreover, many of the market packages support special events, including the various traveler information packages, network surveillance, freeway control, surface street control, regional traffic control, reversible lane management, regional parking management, transit operations, just to name a few.
11.2.5 Technologies and Strategies
The mitigation of congestion and potential safety impacts identified through a planned special event feasibility study requires development of a traffic management plan and complementing travel demand management strategies. Table 11-3 lists numerous tools for mitigating planned special event impacts on local roadway and regional transportation system operations. In meeting the overall travel management goal of achieving efficiency, these tools target using the excess capacity of the roadway system, parking facilities, and transit. Through travel demand management, event planning team stakeholders develop attractive incentives and use innovative communication mechanisms to influence event patron decision-making and, ultimately, traffic demand.
11.2.6 Emerging Trends
The "Freeway Management State-of-the-Practice White Paper" (Reference 4) addresses the "state-of-the-art" (Note: Defined in the reference as "innovative and effective practices and the application of leading edge technologies that are ready for deployment in terms of operating accurately and efficiently, but are not fully accepted and deployed by practitioners") in special events management as follows: "In addition to using the state of the art features available from other related system functions, focuses on utilizing mobile devices to help manage traffic during special events. The use of portable dynamic message signs for special events is relatively common practice. However, expanding that concept to other devices is more state-or-the-art than state-of-the-practice. Portable devices that have been used for special events management include portable CCTV cameras and detection devices to monitor conditions surrounding special event venues."
Figure 11-2 summarizes the phases of managing travel for planned special events and the common products generated by coordinated stakeholder groups under each phase.
11.3.1 Program Planning
Program planning involves the participation and coordination of stakeholders having an oversight role in addition to agencies directly responsible for event operations planning. Products of program planning include establishing new institutional frameworks, policies, and regulations to plan, monitor, and evaluate future planned special events. A stakeholder task force on special events may identify future infrastructure needs, in addition to funding mechanisms, to better manage travel for recurring events. Program planning for all planned special events in a region requires an institutional framework for generating and managing programs and initiatives that, in turn, improve planning and day-of-event operations for future events. A key consideration involves integrating a planned special event program with other ongoing freeway and transportation management programs.
Program planning for local planned special events typically incorporates a government agency permitting and regulation framework. Through a carefully constructed permitting process, stakeholders can achieve a better sense of what resources are needed to handle the event. Figure 11-3 presents a flowchart summarizing key event organizer and public agency actions throughout a special event permit process, from submitting a permit application to conducting the proposed event.
11.3.2 Event Operations Planning
The event operations planning phase encompasses three stages of advance planning for a specific planned special event:
11.3.3 Training and Implementation
Training and implementation activities include implementation plan development, stakeholder review and testing, and personnel resource management. The objectives of these activities are to improve the efficiency of traffic management plan deployment, and to increase traffic management team preparedness. In turn, this creates a more responsive traffic management team and fluid team operation, thus translating to better transportation system performance on the day-of-event.
11.3.4 Day-of-Event Activities
Day-of-event activities involve the actual implementation and operation of the traffic management plan during the day-of-event. Not only do the requirements of the traffic management team have to be considered, but it is also very essential to monitor what can be a very fluid situation to see how the plan is working and then determine what needs to be adjusted based on real-time traffic conditions.
The traffic management team must adopt a formal management process to ensure successful traffic management plan deployment and minimal impact to transportation system users. The Incident Command System (ICS) can be used to handle traffic management during planned special events. Unified Command represents an ICS management process that functions to coordinate inter-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary stakeholders comprising the traffic management team without sacrificing agency authority, responsibility, or accountability. An advantage of using the ICS during a planned special event is that it clarifies how decisions are made if the traffic management plan requires adjustment. ICS is discussed in more detail in Chapter 12.
Since multiple stakeholders are involved, it is critical that they be able to communicate with one another on the day-of-event. Operating on a common channel with clear language greatly improves interagency communication. To minimize confusion and extraneous information being shared among agencies, the question of who will use which frequencies should be decided during the planning process. Stakeholders should understand how they can reach other traffic management team members during the event, which channels they will be found on, and what information should be shared.
Traffic monitoring represents an important day-of-event activity, serving to provide traffic and incident management support in addition to performance evaluation data. Timely deployment of contingency plans developed during the event operations planning phase depends on the accurate collection and communication of real-time traffic data between traffic management team members.
11.3.5 Post-Event Activities
Post-event activities range from informal debriefings between agencies comprising the traffic management team to development of a detailed evaluation report. Evaluation results represent valuable input data for use in planning for future planned special events.
Reference 1 profiles numerous successful practices, highlighting proven policies, regulations, strategies, and tactics used in the advance planning, management, and monitoring of travel for planned special events. In turn, operators will gain an understanding of the keys to successful planned special event transportation management, as summarized below:
2. Carson, J.L. and R.G. Bylsma, Transportation Planning and Management for Special Events, NCHRP Synthesis 309, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington D.C., 2003, 71 pp.
3."Traffic Incident Management Self Assessment Guide," Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D.C., 2002 [Online]. Available: http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/eto_tim_pse/preparedness/tim/self.htm. [2003, July 8].