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Managing Travel for Planned Special Events: First National Conference Proceedings


Mark Norman, Transportation Research Board, Presiding

Regional Planning and Coordination

Greg Jones
Federal Highway Administration

Thank you, Mark. It is a pleasure to highlight the main topics discussed in the Regional Planning and Coordination Session. I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Future Vision Session. We had a lively and a productive discussion. The output products suggested by participants included executive presentations, issue papers, case studies, potential research areas, and success stories.

I would like to highlight five of the issues identified by participants, along with potential outputs. These issues are not presented in priority order, as we did not have time to identify their relative importance. The first issue addresses the development of a formal committee or work group for regional planning for special events. This approach would help mainstream planning for special events into the ongoing regional planning process, rather than just reacting to individual events. Such a committee could explore potential funding opportunities for multi-agency applications. One suggested approach was establishing a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) technical work group or committee dedicated to planning and coordinating transportation for special events. The committee would also provide a framework for transferring lessons learned from one event to another.

One suggested product to address this issue was a compendium of highway case studies of regions that have successfully implemented a formal planning structure for special events. These case studies would highlight the process, the institutional arrangements, and the benefits. Potential research opportunities include the development of planning model inputs for operational strategies during planned special events.

The second issue discussed by participants in the session focused on permits for special events. One approach suggested was to require events above a certain attendance to conduct a regional transportation impact study. This study would include identifying and developing mitigation alternatives to address the impacts. Possible opportunities for financial assistance from the event organizer to help address the impacts would also be identified. Also noted as important was the need for consistency in the permit requirements across all agencies in an area. A suggested product for this issue was the development of best practice examples and making them available on a website or other communication method.

The third issue the group discussed was how to identify TDM opportunities during advance planning for special events. Possible TDM strategies identified included priority parking for HOVs, shuttle bus and transit incentives, utilizing electronic toll collection technology at parking facilities, and including the price of parking in the ticket price. Potential products identified were collecting and publishing innovative approaches from around the country. Research to examine additional innovative TDM approaches was also suggested.

The fourth issue discussed was the use of performance measures with special events to help with continuous improvement. The group discussed data for operational decision making during an event. Benchmarking and tracking performance over time was noted as important, especially when seeking opportunities for improvement. Data also can be used to support future funding decisions. Case studies documenting regions utilizing performance measures with special events, especially those focusing on operational and planning benefits were identified as a needed product. Suggested research included examining appropriate performance measures and benchmarks, and identifying ongoing methods to track and report on performance.

The final issue discussed in the session was communications. A number of facets of communication were identified as important. Establishing protocols for advance planning with security officials was noted as critical. Examining the regional on-site communication technologies was highlighted to ensure coordination between agencies. Considering appropriate communication techniques for releasing information to the public, especially interaction with the media, was also noted as important.

Event-Specific Operations Planning

Tom Fowler
Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.Federal Highway Administration

I would like to thank the participants in the Event-Specific Operations Planning Session. The 20-25 participants represented a variety of backgrounds, including operators, planners, and researchers. Participants were from both large and small urban areas. Some had experience with existing events, while others were planning for future events. Participants stressed the desire to learn from the experiences of others. It was suggested that we just package what Los Angeles is doing and send it to other areas.

Participants identified five high priority issues in the session. The first priority topic was the need to develop a standard process for planning and implementing a special events travel management strategy. The second issue focused on funding, specifically who pays for special event travel management. The third issue addressed the need for better planning, especially the challenge of planning for risks and unknown problems. The fourth issue focused on crowd behavior and dealing with crowds after an event. The final high priority issue was the need to collect data for use in simulations and modeling, especially for first time events.

Participants also identified four other issues. These issues were identifying the right partners, understanding the unique aspects of each event, coordinating utility and public works lane closures, and working together with a venue to define the event. Due to limited time, these issues were not discussed in as much detail as the five priority issues.

Participants identified a number of ways to help advance the state-of-the-practice. First was developing best practice examples of funding transportation elements associated with special events, including the use of fees. Second was defining the cost for special event travel management for all agencies and providing a total cost for policy makers. Third was developing a data warehouse for special event travel data. Fourth was developing a traffic control manual for special events. It was noted that the section in the MUTCD on work zone traffic control was not adequate. Other identified needs included developing evaluation techniques to measure the success of traffic management techniques, identifying benefits of special event travel management, and integrating special event travel management with Homeland Security.

Participants suggested three possible research and technology transfer activities. The first was to develop and conduct one or two day training courses prior to a major special event. The second was to develop a national website for special events that would highlight lessons learned from events, data collection activities, and the costs associated with different techniques and approaches. Finally, it was suggested that establishing a community of practices was needed. This conference represents a great start at developing a community with representatives from transportation, transit, and policy agencies.

Traffic Management and Security Plans for Stadiums and Arenas

Duane Hartman
PB Farradyne, Inc.

I would like to thank the participants in the Traffic Management and Security Plans for Stadiums and Arenas Session. We had a lively discussion on a number of topics. We first identified and prioritized issues of concern to participants. We then identified approaches to address the high priority issues. Technology solutions, human and funding resource solutions, and institutional solutions were considered for addressing the priority issues. Finally, we identified possible research needs and projects.

The group identified 17 issues related to traffic management and security plans for stadiums and arenas. Four of these issues were discussed in detail. The 17 issues are noted below.

Participants identified communication as the top priority issue. The timeliness of information between agencies and within an agency was noted as critical. The timing of providing information to the public was also identified as important. Techniques to improve the flow of information between law enforcement and traffic operations staff were discussed. Communication concerns related to security were also discussed. A change in security can affect traffic. For example, a pedestrian queue could disrupt incoming traffic.

The second issue discussed was including the needs of local residents and emergency responders in pre-planning routes. Local residents not participating in an event should not be trapped by the traffic management strategies. The third issue focused on security clearance for local agency personnel. The fourth issue addressed modal interface coordination, including coordinating pedestrians, automobile, and transit traffic.

Participants discussed methods to advance the state-of-the-practice with these four issues. Suggestions related to communications included multi-agency training, utilizing existing technology to facilitate coordination, and including public information officers in the communications link. Suggestions for the second issue on pre-planning routes to address the needs of local traffic and emergency responders included technology solutions such as utilizing lane control signals to define lane assignments and providing funding to plan, design, and construct facilities to accommodate event traffic.

Suggestions for advancing the state-of-the-practice related to security clearance focused on training and consistent security search policies. Communicating these policies to the public was noted as important. Empowering authorized law enforcement staff with security clearance to represent departments of transportation was also discussed. Approaches for addressing modal interface coordination focused on considering all modes during the planning and designing of special events transportation programs and examining how these modes interact with each other.

Finally, participants identified possible research needs and technology transfer activities with each of the four priority issues. Participants suggested that no additional research was needed on the communication issue. Rather, we should apply the Nike solution and Just Do It. Additional research was suggested to examine patron ingress and egress rates and facility capacities, including roadway and sidewalks. It was also suggested that there is a need to examine the feasibility of prescreening season ticket holders for security clearance, allowing them to bypass security lines. Additionally, it was suggested that research is needed to develop multimodal simulation modeling to assist with modal interface coordination.

Intelligent Transportation Systems Support and Applications

Martin Knopp
Federal Highway Administration

I would like to thank the participants in the ITS Support and Applications Session. We had a lively and far-reaching discussion. We first talked about the background on ITS applications and key issues with the use of ITS. We then discussed techniques for advancing the state-of-the-practice and research and technology transfer needs.

There was agreement that ITS can play an important role in helping manage travel for special events. Information from sensors, CCTV, TMCs, and other technologies can be used for decision support and implementation. ITS can also enhance communication to the public. Approaches to communicate with the public include video, websites, and Amber Alerts. Opportunities for enhanced partnerships exist among venue managers, the media, operators, public safety agencies, and other groups. Participants suggested that the 511 system provides a good model.

Participants suggested that we are still learning how to use these tools, however. We need to share our lessons learned with the different technologies. The potential need for a regional ITS architecture for planned special events was discussed. It was noted that planning for special events might disrupt deployment planning. Considering how special events fit into deployment planning may be needed in some areas.

Participants noted that many areas are still learning to use emerging technologies. The use of CCTV for transportation versus security needs was discussed. The use of temporary devices that can be quickly deployed were also discussed.

Transportation agencies are still educating internal staff, decision makers, and the public on the capabilities of ITS technologies. Planned special events, especially major events, often provide a major focus for funding and deploying ITS and other system improvements. The ongoing operating costs can be a challenge, however. Planned special events require integrated thinking, including network and operations, CCTV, and DMS priority conflicts. Conflicts often emerge over staffing hours versus event schedules. It is important not to overwork key staff by over assigning them during a special event.

Using transportation management centers to help coordinate national security was discussed. The technologies are available to assist in national security special events. Participants also discussed if planned special events were the appropriate time to try unproven advanced technologies. Given critical deadlines, media spotlights, and political interest, planned special events may not be the best time to try unproven technologies and approaches.

Participants identified a number of techniques for advancing the state-of-the-practice related to ITS and planned special events. The first suggestion was to synthesize performance measures and lessons learned from previous planned special event evaluations. Preparing guidance on common evaluation criteria was noted as being needed. Identifying the lessons learned from smaller events was suggested as important. Preparing guidance identifying design considerations for security countermeasures was identified as needed. Synthesizing best practices for quick deployment of temporary technologies, best practices for training TMC staffs, and performing table-top exercises was suggested as a need for helping advance the state-of-the-practice.

Participants suggest two research needs and technology transfer activities. The first suggestion was for an NOTC Talking Operations series on the use of ITS with planned special events. The second suggestion was fostering ongoing web dialogues.

Traffic Management Plans

Bayne Smith
URS Corporation

The discussion in the Traffic Management Plans Session was very productive. I would like to thank all the participants for sharing their thoughts and ideas. We started by identifying a number of common themes. These themes included being proactive and pre-planning for an event, using transit, involving all stakeholders, and using post-planning and follow-up activities. Other themes included having a good public information plan, using ITS as a tool, considering institutional issues, and considering pedestrians.

A key issue identified by participants in the session was funding for the extra traffic management elements associated with planned special events. It was suggested that a method to charge for the extra transportation elements associated with special events was needed. The use of impact fees was identified as one possible approach. Participants discussed tourism versus taxes. Event hosts often do not have funds for transportation. It was noted that in some cases funds to go the state or agency, but do not always get returned to the budged of the department or section supporting the event. Participants discussed that the land use approval and permitting process may be a tool to use with new facilities. A study on cost reimbursement techniques was identified as needed.

Contingency planning was discussed as a second important issue. Communication between agencies on individual plans was identified as important, as was the need to better coordinate and link communication with policy and security needs. Interfaces with national security was discussed, especially the concern that these groups do not always share everything they know. Voice and data communications were discussed, especially related to access for different personnel. There was agreement that contingency plans must be considered in the planning process.

The need to develop relationships among agency staff in advance of the special event was noted as critical. The challenge is both to develop these relationships and to maintain them over time. Traffic incident management (TIM) teams are a good tool to develop and maintain these relationships. Considering co-locating staff was suggested as a good technique to build and maintain relationships. Leveraging relationships to build additional relationships with other agencies was also suggested as important. There was agreement that being proactive in establishing and maintaining relationships was important.

Providing traffic management training for law enforcement personnel was identified as another important issue. This training should include the basics of traffic engineering and traffic management. In Louisiana, some 1,500 law enforcement personnel have been trained in traffic management. The ability to work overtime at special events is linked to attending this training. Including this type of training in police academies was suggested. The need to develop a national training program for traffic management at special events for law enforcement field personnel was noted as a priority.

Providing consistency in traffic management plans was suggested as important. Recreating the wheel in many local areas wastes time and resources. Uniformity and simplicity is needed in these guidelines. A central clearinghouse or website for best practices for traffic management plans was identified as a way to address this issue. The clearinghouse should be targeted for, and accessible to, local agencies.

Due to time constraints, three final issues were identified but not discussed in detail. These issues addressed the needs of smaller agencies for access to technology, automating traveler information to free up staff for other duties, and using existing media contacts for traveler information.

Transit and Travel Demand Management

Doug Robert

I would like to thank the participants in the Transit and TDM session. Although we might have had one of the smaller groups, we had a lively discussion on a number of topics. We identified key issues, possible research needs, and technology transfer activities.

Session participants suggested that planners often have little or no control over special event transportation. Much of the discussion over transportation and special events is media driven. The question was raised if we are shaping expectations rather than meeting them. It was suggested that we focus more on shaping expectations. The demand or business side of special events is not always considered.

The role that transit and TDM can play will depend to some extent on the size and scale of a special event. For example, smaller events often have limited transit availability, while large events typically are served by transit. Pedestrian management is often an important element of special events of all sizes.

There is also a need to match the nature of an event with the venue operating plan. Techniques are needed to increase vehicle occupancy levels from high to higher. Public agency planning is available to help, but agencies often need to leverage funding and resources. Traffic engineers often have little experience with TDM tools.

One of the key research needs identified was the lack of data on transit ridership and TDM effectiveness. Information on mode split, cost/benefit consequence, and liability is needed. Sharing data with others can benefit everyone. This type of information is needed to present to venue operators, special event organizers, policy makers, and the public.

Research is also needed on performance measures related to the perceptions of venue attendees, residents, and businesses. Sharing information on successes, problems, ideas, and user feedback would be of benefit. Addressing public safety and homeland security issues while at the same time managing traffic and providing access is not easy. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) access issues must also be addressed.

Participants suggested a number of ideas for addressing some of these concerns. Universal ticketing or smart cards could be used to make the sales of venue tickets, transit, and parking seamless. Flow metering could be used for pedestrians and vehicles. Temporary infrastructure could be used to help direct pedestrians and vehicles. Bus design could be modified to provide easier and faster passenger boarding and deboarding. Enhanced accommodations for bicycles could also be made.

Security and Contingency Planning

Laurel Radow
Federal Highway Administration

I would like to thank the participants in the Security and Contingency Planning session. We discussed a number of issues, techniques to advance the state-of-the-practice, and research needs and technology transfer activities.

Among the participants, there was agreement that the post 9/11 world requires working more closely with public safety and security partners. It was noted that many state and local departments of transportation have established offices of special events. Whereas mobility has been a key issue for planned special events in the past, recent events have emphasized security over mobility. The need for good cross-agency planning early on in the process was stressed.

The need to establish a common base of knowledge was noted as important. Ensuring that contingency planning is included in the process is also critical, as something unexpected frequently happens. Training for all personnel was stressed. The incident command structure also needs to be established well in advance of an event. Using real-time information during the event should be explored more, as should human behavior during special events. Sharing information on institutional issues is also needed.

The participants suggested that additional transportation modeling to show the public safety community what happens when roads are closed is needed. The participants also noted that the role of transit shifts when the emphasis changes from mobility to security. Inspection of vehicles has become a key aspect of managing traffic for some special events, as has credentialing. The need to consider security in the venue site selection process was noted. One site may be better for security, while another site may be better for mobility.

To advance the state-of-the-practice, participants identified five areas for additional research. The first proposed research would examine the use of permits for special events. The second would explore the use of CCTV for both traffic management and security monitoring. The need for more research on planning evacuation routes for special events was identified. Techniques for educating partners about transportation were also suggested. Finally exploring technologies and sharing infrastructure including the use of joint cooperative agreements was discussed.

Participants also identified exercises, outreach activities, scans, and site visits to help advance the state-of-the-practice. Developing and conducting tabletop exercises for special events with partners was identified as needed. Conducting scenario-building exercises was also suggested. The need to develop and train for each special event using the concept of operations and standard operating procedures was highlighted.

Conducting tabletop exercises with public safety agencies and other partners for special events was discussed as a need. Another suggested approach was exchanging staff members among partner agencies. For example, transportation staff would spend time with public safety agency staff and enforcement personnel would spend time working at transportation agencies. Conducting scans and site visits during events was also identified as a good way to share information.

Traffic Management Team Day-of-Event Activities

Jon Obenberger
Federal Highway Administration

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Traffic Management Team Day-of-Event Activities Future Practices Session. We had a very lively discussion. The group identified key issues associated with day-of-event management and possible technology transfer activities and research projects that would provide practitioners with the information, products, and tools to improve on current practices.

Day-of-event activities are highlighted in Chapter 9 of the Managing Travel for Planned Special Events handbook. As noted in the handbook, day-of-event activities are the focus of Phase 4 associated with the advanced planning, coordination, and proactive management of travel for planned special events. Major activities typically carried out associated with this phase include implementing the traffic management plan, surveillance and monitoring of traffic and access points to the event site, and managing and controlling traffic. Other activities on the event day focus on coordinating, sharing, and distributing information to other agency staff, event organizers, event attendees, and the public. These activities are typically coordinated through a command post and remote traffic management locations. ITS and other technologies are often an enabler, providing practitioners with the capabilities to carryout or assist with these efforts. It is critical that the appropriate policies, procedures, and protocols are established during the planning phase to define the activities that are to be carried out, the roles and responsibilities of different agencies, the information to be shared, and the possible actions to be implemented on the day-of-the event.

Participants noted that it is important to balance prepared traffic control plans with the ability to respond to demands that may arise in the field and to allow for adjustments to be made based on what may or may not be working. It was suggested that there is a lack of established or documented policies, procedures, protocol, tasks, tools, and performance measures for use by agency staff in preparing for, and carrying out, day-of-event activities. Time and resources are also needed to allow for stakeholders to train, prepare, and coordinate before an event.

There are numerous capabilities, technologies, and resources that are available to support and facilitate real-time management and traffic control. These techniques and resources can also be used to distribute en-route travel condition and routing information, and provide for remote surveillance and monitoring. They also provide the ability to share information and communicate with traffic management team members and stakeholders. One of the challenges with special events is having the ITS infrastructure in place to support the traffic monitoring, control, and management capabilities that may be needed. With the advancements that have been realized with ITS technologies, agencies can effectively and efficiently implement temporary or permanent traffic management and control capabilities that may be needed for a specific event.

To help advance the state-of-the-practice, participants suggested developing a common understanding of goals and objectives, performance measures, benefits, and potential impacts of regional events and specific events. Participants further suggested that these items be systematically documented and assessed on an annual basis for all planned special events that may occur within a region or metropolitan area to identify the value and the benefits associated with the proactive management and control of traffic for planned special events. The need for technical guidance and recommended practices distributed for local application and the resources provided to facilitate the implementation of the necessary regional programs, initiatives, and practices appropriate for all events were identified.

The need was also identified for agencies to better define the resources required to support a regional program or initiative and agency specific efforts focused on advancing current practices related to the proactive management and control of traffic for planned special events. This should be an identifiable component of an agencies traffic operations program. Agency specific efforts might include regional programs, events in a region, and individual events. Establishing common use of incident command system protocols and procedures for all stakeholder coordination was noted as an important issue to pursue as a policy and practice to apply for all events that may occur within a region.

Establishing and maintaining a national clearinghouse to provide access to information on all aspects of transportation for planned special events was identified as a high priority short-term need. Peer-to-peer technical assistance, scanning tours, and other initiatives for assistance were also identified to help advance the state-of-the-practice. Developing case studies, technical guidance, and best practices were noted as important as products that could be delivered and used by the teams that may be involved in the advanced planning and coordination of managing traffic for planned special events. This information could be shared through a national clearinghouse, through conferences, and through printed reports. A planned special event toolbox was recommended as high priority short-term. This toolbox would provide the ability for individuals to tailor products that would be developed nationally to meet their needs related to a specific event or regional program. These products could include recommended protocols, procedures, policies, VMS messages, permit policies, forms, scheduling, resource estimating, and other items that practitioners may use.

Participants also identified a need to develop training and workshops. These training courses and workshops could be developed nationally and made available in formats that allow easy tailoring and application locally. They should include tabletop types of exercises for specific types of planned special events. These workshops and tabletop exercise would be consistent with and assist with the application of the guidance and recommended practices that would already be developed in the toolbox and other products. The workshops should focus on one specific event and allow participants to develop local action plans to enhance the proactive management and control of traffic for that specific event. The workshops and training courses should include examples for all categories of events.


Mark Norman
Transportation Research Board

There were a number of common themes among all speakers. These themes include that we need to be proactive, not reactive; we need policies, protocols, tools, and guidelines; we need resources, including time, money, and people; we need training; we need to do a better job of organizing our partners and coordinating regional approaches; we need data, evaluations, and a way to measure performance; and we need communication and coordination. While this list is daunting, the elements are not unusual. It is similar to the list developed back in the 1930s when the traffic engineering profession was beginning to organize. It is also similar to the list developed in the 1980's when the ITS program was being initiated. And it is similar to the list developed in the late 1990's as we evolved into management and operations.

One of the keys to success is establishing a community of practice. For example, the more than 200 TRB committees have been successful because they have established communities of practice. The same is true for other professional organizations. This conference has initiated the establishment of a community of practice for managing traffic with planned special events. The conference begins to provide the critical mass of professionals needed to help promote research needs, monitor and evaluate the implementation of different approaches, and share information on lessons learned.

Thank you all for participating in this important conference. I look forward to future activities to help advance the state-of-the-practice with managing transportation for planned special events.

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