Chapter One. Background
Figure 1-1. Planned Special Event Patron Arrival
A planned special event is a public activity, with
a scheduled time and location, that impacts normal transportation system
operations as a result of increased travel demand and/or reduced capacity
attributed to event staging.
Statement of the Problem
Sources of Congestion
The public has become increasingly sensitive to the impact congestion
has on quality of life, citing delays caused by traffic congestion
as their top community transportation concern in a recent National survey.(1)
Congestion equates to decreased performance and, in turn, economic loss
for businesses and trucking companies. Congestion either causes late deliveries
or forces truckers to build additional travel time into their itineraries,
particularly when making just-in-time deliveries.
Congestion simply refers to a condition where traffic demand exceeds
roadway capacity. Capacity measures potential or the maximum, sustainable
rate of traffic volume that can traverse a road segment. Congestion results
from sudden, significant changes in (1) traffic demand or (2) available
roadway capacity, both of which cause demand to exceed capacity. When
this occurs, the congestion is considered either recurring or
non-recurring based on its causal factors:
- Recurring congestion is usually characterized by
an increase in traffic demand. Commuter traffic induces congestion at
the same time and location weekday after weekday; hence traffic managers
can essentially predict when recurring congestion will happen. Recurring
congestion reflects the daily, systematic relationship between peak
traffic demand rates, inadequate road capacity, and sub-optimal operation
of traffic control devices. The latter represents one of the few causes
of recurring congestion that affects capacity rather than demand.
- Non-recurring congestion happens as a result of an
event. The spatial and temporal characteristics, or location and time
of an event, may be known in advance, or the event may happen at random
with very little or no warning. These events are commonly termed planned
and unplanned events, respectively. Congestion causing events,
whether planned or unplanned, result in either a reduction in roadway
capacity, an increase in traffic demand, or both. Table 1-1 summarizes
how these events impact roadway system operations.
Table 1-1a. Congestion Impacts of Planned Events
||Event-Generated Impact: Traffic Demand
||Event-Generated Impact: Road Capacity
|Major roadway construction and maintenance
- Increases background traffic demand on parallel freeways and
- Closes travel lane(s) or road segments.
|Planned special event
- Generates new trips and increases traffic demand on all corridors
serving the event.
- Closes travel lane(s) or road segments to stage event (typically
street use events).
Table 1-1b. Congestion Impacts of Unplanned Events
||Event-Generated Impact: Traffic Demand
||Event-Generated Impact: Road Capacity
|Traffic incident (e.g., crash, disablement, spilled load, debris)
- Causes background traffic diversion to parallel freeways and
- Blocks travel lane(s) or road segments.
|Emergency road work
- Causes background traffic diversion to parallel freeways and
- Blocks travel lane(s) or road segments.
|Adverse weather (e.g., snow, ice, fog, heavy rain, sun glare)
- Decreases traffic demand (potentially).
- Reduces vehicle operating speeds and increases headways, thus
|Emergency (e.g., severe weather, natural disaster, terrorism)
- Causes evacuations that generate extreme traffic demand.
- Renders road segments impassable (potentially).
A planned special event represents the only type of event that can generate
an increase in traffic demand and cause a temporary reduction
in roadway capacity because of event staging. For example, a parade or
bicycle race may require street closures extending over a significant
distance, and other events may warrant isolated road closures to accommodate
Impact of Planned Special Events
Planned special events can significantly impact travel safety, mobility,
and travel time reliability. Mobility and reliability refer to
the ease and consistency of travel, respectively. The scope of these impacts
represent a function of several event operation characteristics, including
attendance, rate of event patron arrival and departure, venue location,
and adjacent roadway capacity. The effect and perceived magnitude of mobility
and travel time reliability impacts vary by class of transportation system
user. Table 1-2 lists the classes of transportation system users whose
needs must be accommodated during a planned special event.
Table 1-2. Impacts on Transportation System Users
||Impact on Users
|Event patron or participant
- Event patron demand may cause roadway system congestion.
- Event patrons may use another mode of travel.
|Non-attendee road user
- Local resident
- Local business
- Emergency services
- Commuters and truckers may encounter reduced travel time reliability
in corridors serving an event venue.
- Special event traffic control strategies may impact local residents
and businesses not involved with the event.
- Emergency service providers may experience increased response
times during an event.
- Non-attendee road users may delay planned trips or divert around
a corridor impacted by a planned special event.
- Emergency service providers mandate the provision of unimpeded
emergency access routes to and from the event venue and its surrounding
- Transit users may realize service impacts on the day-of-event,
including reduced availability of parking at transit stations
and system capacity conditions.
- Preferred parking areas may be set aside for commuters during
the days of the event.
Transportation stakeholders place a priority on minimizing impacts to
event patron and non-attendee road users and to transit users as well.
Event patrons accept a certain level of delay as part of the overall experience
of attending an event, but place a high priority on getting to their destination
prior to the event start.
Because planned special events are scheduled, transportation and other
agencies attempt to influence the schedule to avoid conflict with recurring
congestion. Some municipal codes prohibit special events requiring road
closures at certain times of the day or week:
- For example, Section 447.50 of the Minneapolis Municipal Code states:
Downtown area restrictions. (a) No permit shall be granted for a
parade/race to be conducted within the downtown area between the hours
of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on any day which
is not Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday.
Goals of Managing Travel for Planned Special Events
Table 1-3 presents the goals of managing travel for planned
Table 1-3. Planned Special Event Travel Management Goals
- Perform a multi-modal travel forecast.
- Define the area and transportation system components impacted.
- Conduct analyses of parking demand and traffic demand.
- Identify and correct roadway capacity deficiencies.
- Accommodate pedestrians accessing an event via a network of
safe walking routes.
- Minimize pedestrian/vehicular conflicts.
- Provide unimpeded access routes for emergency services.
- Prevent congestion-induced secondary incidents.
- Use all available resources and excess transportation system
capacity, including road and transit capacity.
- Enhance transportation system operations.
- Deploy incident management strategies to respond and clear traffic
The potential impact a planned special event has on transportation system
operations is often difficult to predict and measure. Periodic planned
special events at stadiums and arenas, or similar venues having good access
to adjacent high-capacity roadways, may generate highly predictable travel
patterns known even by local commuters. But, in many other cases, 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.
In meeting these goals, the mission of this technical reference involves
disseminating a suite of travel management solutions, applicable
on both a local and regional level, encompassing the following three broad
- Process strategies include frameworks for facilitating
stakeholder coordination, steps for predicting event-generated travel
demand and impacts, procedures for developing traffic management initiatives,
methods for assessing event impact mitigation proposals, guidelines
on implementation activities, protocol for communication, and frameworks
- Operations strategies include a range of regulations,
traffic and pedestrian control strategies, and transit coordination
strategies for operating the transportation system in a manner that
fulfills the customer service requirements of event patrons and other
road users during a planned special event.
- Service strategies include travel demand management
policies and other initiatives that strive to improve the utility associated
with available travel choices (e.g., mode, vehicle occupancy, and parking
This technical reference emphasizes the need to apply and integrate all
possible solutions that benefit the safe and efficient management of travel
for a single planned special event or a series of events occurring in
a region. On a regional level, a committee on planned special events may
adopt process and operations strategies disseminating standard operating
procedures. Certain strategies, such as an express/charter bus service,
may achieve greater public awareness and success if configured for a series
of planned special events. Table 1-4 presents the objectives of this technical
Table 1-4. Technical Reference Objectives
- Describe innovative stakeholder partnerships that facilitate
continuous coordination, cooperation, and integration of personnel
and equipment resources.
- Describe processes that stakeholders may adopt to improve current
advance planning and day-of-event operations.
- Provide methods to raise awareness of potential travel impacts
to non-attendee road users and the community at-large.
- Detail new technology applications and successful operations
strategies to minimize field personnel requirements, improve travel
conditions monitoring, and reduce congestion levels.
- Identify the advantages of transit use, travel demand management,
and accurate, up-to-date traveler information dissemination during
the occurrence of a planned special event.
- Demonstrate the importance of sound traffic management team
organization and communication during the day-of-event.
- Communicate the advantages of integrating post-event evaluation
activities into program planning for future planned special events.
Benefits of Successful Planned Special Events
As shown in Figure 1-2, communities and regions have promoted and supported
planned special events to boost tourism and fuel local and state economies.
Figure 1-2. Community Promotion of Planned Special
- The filming of "The Fast and the Furious 2," requiring extensive
use of freeways and streets in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties,
brought an estimated $14 million to southeast Florida during the four-month
- The following economic benefits of planned special events were realized
by the State of Wisconsin:(3)
- $11 billion annual industry statewide.
- $2.5 billion annual industry in metropolitan Milwaukee.
- Over $1 billion generated in state tax revenues.
- Over $70 million generated in Federal and state transportation
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. These users include event patrons, commuters, truckers, and
emergency service providers.
Table 1-5 presents the overall benefits that can be realized through
managing travel for planned special events.
Table 1-5. Overall Benefits(4)
- Reduced delay for motorists attending the planned special event
through more active information dissemination, traffic management,
and alternate mode use.
- Reduced delay for motorists not attending the special event
through active promotion of alternate routes or modes.
- Reduced overall traffic demand at or near the special event
site through active promotion of alternate routes or modes or
dissemination of information, resulting in the cancellation or
delay of unnecessary trips.
- Improved safety through more active traffic management and reduced
The proactive and coordinated management of travel for planned special
events also yields numerous benefits to transportation stakeholders and
transportation system operations, as indicated in Table 1-6.
Table 1-6. Benefits to Transportation Stakeholders and System Operations
- Deployment of new technologies for traffic control and monitoring.
- Incorporation of new procedures and tactics into everyday traffic/incident
- Upgrade of transportation system infrastructure.
- Improvement in stakeholder productivity.
- Promotion of interagency sharing of personnel and equipment
- Leverage of public support for newly deployed traffic management
and transit initiatives.
- Attraction of new regular transit users and carpoolers.
- Development of new interagency relationships crossing jurisdictional
- Improvement in communication and trust between stakeholders.
- Coordination of and participation in regional organizations
to influence policy and improve activities for all planned special
- Dissemination of lessons learned and solutions to technical
problems that other jurisdictions may encounter in the future.
- Promotion of stakeholder efforts in the media, as illustrated
in Figure 1-3.
A successful planned special event also satisfies community residents
and businesses possessing no direct interest in the event. Table 1-7 specifies
Table 1-7. Community Benefits
- Better community recognition.
- Increased pride and community spirit.
- Increased awareness of the community as a travel destination.
- Increased knowledge of potential for investment and commercial
activity in the community.
- Increased potential to attract other special events.
Figure 1-3. Media Promotion of Stakeholder Efforts
(Graphic courtesy of the Wisconsin DOT.)
NCHRP Synthesis 309
A National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) synthesis, 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.(4)
It identifies how agencies are planning, coordinating services, and managing
transportation systems for planned special events. Based on a survey of
stakeholder practices related to special event planning and management,
the synthesis report addresses special event types, involved stakeholders,
tools and techniques for managing travel demand and controlling traffic,
operations guides, qualitative and quantitative assessment efforts, and
FHWA Metropolitan ITS Infrastructure Deployment Tracking
The FHWA maintains an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) deployment
tracking database based on surveys of agencies in the 78 largest U.S.
metropolitan areas and encompassing six ITS infrastructure component areas.(5)
A survey on freeway management includes a select number of questions on
special event management, including: (1) regional coordination for planned
special events, (2) dissemination of information to the public via techniques
such as the Internet, television, kiosks, and telephone information systems,
and (3) transportation management center (TMC) operations. Below, survey
responses for the Year 2002 are presented, summarizing the scope of regional
special event planning and application of certain ITS system characteristics
to special event traffic management.
Regional Coordination for Planned Special Events
- 68 percent of surveyed agencies (119 total) participate in a formal
multi-agency initiative to proactively plan for and coordinate activities
regionally related to special events. Of the agencies that participate
in a formal multi-agency initiative:
- 59 percent of surveyed agencies plan to document and coordinate
activities, resources, and policies for all special events.
- 36 percent of surveyed agencies have entered into an interagency
- 64 percent of surveyed agencies participate in a multi-agency
- 73 percent of surveyed metropolitan areas (77 total) have agencies
that participate in a formal multi-agency initiative to proactively
plan for and coordinate activities regionally related to special events.
Of the areas with agencies that participate in a formal multi-agency
- 63 percent of surveyed metropolitan areas have agencies that plan
to document and coordinate activities, resources, and policies for
all special events.
- 43 percent of surveyed metropolitan areas have interagency agreements.
- 68 percent of surveyed metropolitan areas have multi-agency teams.
Dissemination of Information to the Public
- 43 percent of surveyed agencies distribute information on special
events to the public.
- 49 percent of surveyed metropolitan areas have agencies that distribute
information on special events to the public.
Transportation Management Center Operations
- 73 percent of surveyed agencies operate a TMC.
- Of the agencies that operate a TMC, 84 percent indicate that special
event traffic management represents a functional capability of their
- 78 percent of surveyed metropolitan areas have a TMC.
- Of the metropolitan areas that have a TMC, 82 percent indicate
that special event traffic management represents a functional capability
of the TMC.
This technical reference covers five phases of managing travel for planned
special events. These phases, comprising the core chapters, include:
- Program planning encompasses advance planning activities
completed months prior to a single, target event or activities related
to a series of future planned special events. This level of advance
planning involves the participation and coordination of stakeholders
serving an oversight role in addition to agencies directly responsible
for event planning and day-of-event traffic management.
- Event operations planning involves advance planning
and resource coordination activities conducted for a specific planned
special event. This phase involves stakeholders organized under the
event planning team.
- Implementation activities represent a transition
phase between event operations planning and day-of-event activities.
The event planning team and traffic management team work to strategize
traffic management plan deployment in addition to conducting necessary
equipment testing and personnel training activities.
- Day-of-event activities refer to the daily implementation
of the traffic management plan in addition to traffic monitoring. Rapid
deployment of traffic management plan strategies and tactics, including
contingency plans, requires a well-organized traffic management team
and communications infrastructure.
- Post-event activities cover the evaluation of local
and regional transportation operations based on stakeholder debriefings
and an analysis of traffic data collected during the day-of-event. Evaluation
involves both the traffic management team and event planning team working
together to identify successes and lessons learned, and the stakeholder
groups may transfer their determinations to the oversight team for consideration
and action under the program planning phase.
Table 1-8 describes common stakeholder-generated products under each
phase of managing travel for planned special events. The table highlights
corresponding major topics that the technical reference covers. Each of
the handbook chapters describing a particular step in the sequential process
of planning and managing a planned special event represents a stand-alone
chapter. Yet, the technical reference provides a smooth transition from
chapter to chapter and integrates the chapters through numerous references.
Table 1-8. Planned Special Event Management Phases and Key Tasks D
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. Three
categories of stakeholders that may participate in the coordinated management
of travel for planned special events include: (1) event operations stakeholders,
(2) community interest stakeholders, and (3) event support stakeholders:
- Event operations stakeholders represent the target
audience of this technical reference. These stakeholders collectively
work toward predicting, mitigating, and measuring the safety, mobility,
and reliability impacts of a planned special event on transportation
operations through comprehensive advance planning, day-of-event traffic
management, and evaluation and monitoring activities. A traffic operations
agency, law enforcement agency, and event organizer represent core stakeholders
because of the responsibility they bear in developing and implementing
a transportation management plan. As with a traffic operations agency,
law enforcement contributes to all phases of managing travel for planned
special events and involves associated personnel at the administrative,
management, and field operations level.
Other key stakeholders include transit agencies and public safety agencies
(e.g., fire and emergency medical service). Table 1-9 lists general
responsibilities of event operations stakeholders. In many cases, an
event predicted to generate significant travel demand across a region
will necessitate the cooperation of multiple inter-jurisdictional
stakeholders in the affected region.
Table 1-9. Event Operations Stakeholders
|Traffic operations agency
- Operates and maintains the transportation system.
- Develops specialized transit plans, complementing an event traffic
management plan, that detail schedules and necessary equipment
and personnel resources.
- Facilitates the safe and efficient flow of traffic through traffic
control and enforcement.
- Plans the event operations logistics.
- Funds the deployment of equipment and personnel resources, including
reimbursement of public agency resource costs, required on the
- Hires a private traffic engineering consultant to perform an
event feasibility study and prepare a traffic management plan.
|Public safety (e.g., fire and emergency medical service)
- Ensures adequate provision of emergency access routes to and
from the event venue.
- Community interest stakeholders ensure and review
advance planning and operations activities to manage event-generated
travel for the purpose of minimizing impacts on community quality of
life and maximizing potential social and economic benefits. Non-transportation
agencies and elected officials play an important role in establishing
policies, regulations, and initiatives for future planned special events.
In fact, these agencies and officials may possess the authority to approve
or disapprove a special event permit for an event organizer.
- Event support stakeholders support, execute, or adhere
to the transportation management plan and initiatives proposed by event
operations and community interest stakeholders. These stakeholders include
private traffic control vendors, private towing companies, the general
public, and automobile and trucking associations. Event support stakeholders
and emergency service stakeholders may gain valuable insight on the
development of event traffic management plan components, including contingency
plans, in addition to strategies for reducing event-generated travel
Overview of Chapters and Major Topics
This technical reference consists of 15 chapters, the final five of which
detail and contrast advance planning and travel management activities
for each of the five defined categories of planned special events discussed
in Chapter 2.
Table 1-10 lists the technical reference chapters and indicates what
chapters cover each distinct phase of special event management. The table
shows Chapters 4 through 10, which represent the core chapters of the
handbook, encompass all five phases of managing travel for planned special
Table 1-10. Handbook Organization
|Special Event Management Phase
||Chapter 1. Background
||Chapter 2. Characteristics and Categories of Planned Special Events
||Chapter 3. Overview
||Chapter 4. Regional and Local Coordination
|Event Operations Planning
||Chapter 5. Event Operations Planning
|Event Operations Planning
||Chapter 6. Traffic Management Plan
|Event Operations Planning
||Chapter 7. Travel Demand Management and Traveler Information
||Chapter 8. Implementation Activities
||Chapter 9. Day-of-Event Activities
||Chapter 10. Post-Event Activities
||Chapter 11. Discrete/Recurring Event at a Permanent Venue
||Chapter 12. Continuous Event
||Chapter 13. Street Use Event
||Chapter 14. Regional/Multi-Venue Event
||Chapter 15. Rural Event
To assist the reader in quickly navigating the handbook, each page displays
a vertical toolbar that indicates the current chapter and section of the
technical reference. As noted in Table 1-10, the sections include: (1)
overview, (2) advance planning, (3) day-of-event activities, (4) post-event
activities, and (5) event profile. Chapters designated under "event
profile" discuss specific categories of special events, detail and
contrast advance planning and travel management activities, and communicate
recommended policies, guidelines, procedures, and resource applications
in a user-friendly format tailored to a specific category of planned special
event. In turn, readers can easily extract information and reference sample
By covering all phases of advance planning and management of travel for
planned special events, this technical reference satisfies the information
requirements of a wide range of stakeholders. Certain stakeholders may
find the majority of handbook chapters pertain to their duties and responsibilities
when handling a planned special event. Other stakeholders may only have
interest in information disseminated via a few handbook sections. This
technical reference recognizes three user groups, each of whom has an
identifiable icon featured in the handbook. If a major chapter section
contains topics suited to a particular user group, then the icon representing
that group will appear on the same line as the section heading.
Three typical user groups, or event operations stakeholders, charged
with managing travel for planned special events in jurisdictions across
the country include: (1) transportation engineers, (2) law enforcement
officers, and (3) event organizers. Table 1-11 displays icons corresponding
to each user group.
Table 1-11. Technical Reference User Groups
||Law enforcement officer
The three user groups include:
- Transportation engineers include traffic engineers,
transit officials, and transportation planners. Traffic engineers may
lead event operations planning and day-of-event traffic management activities.
Event operations planning activities may include developing and reviewing
traffic management plans and formulating traffic signal system timing
plans to accommodate anticipated fluctuations in traffic demand. Traffic
engineers have a day-of-event responsibility of monitoring and maintaining
traffic flow traversing their jurisdiction. Transit officials examine
potential public transit incentives in addition to event express bus
service. Transportation planners may administer a permit application
for a local planned special event.
- Law enforcement officers may take responsibility
for developing and executing a street traffic management plan. Other
potential duties of law enforcement include traffic control and security
on the day-of-event, enforcing traffic and parking restrictions, escorting
dignitaries to/from the event venue, and enforcing the requirements
of a traffic operations agency.
- Event organizers initiate the event operations planning
phase by notifying stakeholders, through a written request to public
agencies or the submission of an event permit application, and assembling
an event planning team. The event organizer governs the logistics of
the planned special event. The event organizer continually works to
maintain interagency coordination in order to meet milestones in the
advance planning process and ultimately gain stakeholder approval of
the proposed transportation management plan.
1. Managing Our Congested Streets and Highways,
Report No. FHWA-OP-01-018, Federal Highway Administration, Washington,
D.C., 2001, 18 pp.
2. Kelleher, B., "Action on the Highways,"
Transportation News, Florida Department of Transportation, Vol.
36, No. 1, January 2003, p. 7.
3. Corbin, J., "Strategies to Improve Management
of Travel for All Planned Special Events in a Region," Presented
at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington,
D.C., January 12–16, 2003.
4. 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.
5. "ITS Deployment Tracking", U.S. Department
of Transportation, Washington, D.C., 2003 [Online]. Available: http://itsdeployment2.ed.ornl.gov/its2002/default.asp.
[2003, September 10].