a collage of eight photos showing a stakeholder meeting, people boarding a bus, a changeable message sign displaying the message race traffic, cars traversing a roadway where barricades delineate travel lanes, a closed-circuit television camera, a crowd of people standing near a train and traversing a pedestrian overpass, two implementation plans, and three traffic management team personnel gathered around a laptop computer

Managing Travel for Planned Special Events

Chapter Nine. Day-of-Event Activities
Page 1 of 2

photo of several men bending over computer monitors and display consoles in an office with large windows overlooking a parking lot filled with cars

Figure 9-1. Traffic Management Team Day-of-Event Interaction

Purpose   handbook section pertains to transportation engineer, law enforcement officer, and event planning user groups

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the actual implementation and operation of the traffic management plan during the day-of-event. This constitutes the fourth phase of managing travel for planned special events. The chapter covers several areas, including sections on the traffic management team, communications, and traffic monitoring. This information allows the transportation management center (TMC) staff and traffic management team members to gain an understanding of how the Incident Command System (ICS) can be used for managing travel during planned special events and provide guidance on setting up a communications framework for planned special events transportation management.

Introduction   handbook section pertains to transportation engineer, law enforcement officer, and event planning user groups

During the advance planning process, countless meetings were attended, numerous hours were spent developing and reworking the traffic management plan, and every contingency was considered. Now, the day is here and it is time to implement and operate the plan.

This chapter looks at what happens on the day(s) of the event. Not only do the requirements of the traffic management plan have to be considered, but also it is 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.

Always expect the unexpected and be ready to handle that unplanned situation. Assess the adequacy of the established communications structure and determine if it is possible to deploy what is needed in a timely manner.

While there is no way to be certain until it happens, this chapter provides tools that will help practitioners deal with and manage all that might happen on the day-of-event.

Table 9-1 lists the key day-of-event activities.

Table 9-1. Day-of-Event Activities
  • Implement a management process for the traffic management team.
  • Designate a multi-agency command post.
  • Conduct a traffic management plan evaluation(s) during the day-of-event.
  • Establish protocol for traffic management team officials to consider and implement changes to the traffic management plan to accommodate real-time traffic conditions.
  • Establish interagency communication protocol.
  • Review communication equipment compatibility.
  • Use the media to communicate with event patrons and other transportation users.
  • Perform traffic monitoring on the day-of-event.

Traffic Management Team   handbook section pertains to transportation engineer, law enforcement officer, and event planning user groups

Stakeholder Roles and Coordination

The traffic management team includes not only many of those stakeholders that have been involved during the event operations planning phase, but all those who may be involved for the first time on the day of the event. This includes other event support stakeholders, other stakeholder representatives, and volunteer personnel. Table 9-2 lists typical stakeholders involved in day-of-event activities.

Table 9-2. Traffic Management Team Stakeholders
  • Traffic operations agency
  • Transit agency
  • Law enforcement
  • Public safety
  • Event organizer
  • Transportation consultants
  • Traffic control contractors
  • Emergency management agency

A planned special event represents a source of non-recurring congestion where, similar to a traffic incident, stakeholders must adopt a formal management process to ensure successful traffic management plan deployment and minimal impact to transportation system users. The Incident Command System can be used to handle traffic management during planned special events. The ICS organizes and coordinates multi-agency response to an incident by establishing responsibilities and lines of authority. An Incident Commander has overall responsibility for managing the planned special event. Depending upon the size of the event a number of individuals will report to the Incident Commander. A key to the ICS is that the reporting relationships be kept to a manageable size. If the number of people reporting to a single individual grows too large, another layer of command should be added.

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. Figure 9-2 displays an example of a Unified Command organization for managing travel for planned special events. The Unified Command hierarchy includes the Incident Commander serving to coordinate and manage the activities performed by stakeholders classified under the following organizational elements: branches, groups, and units. A branch agency manages a specific operational function. For example, a law enforcement agency is responsible for traffic control and pedestrian accommodation. Group agencies manage and execute specific functional activities. Units execute specific functional activities. For instance, a private towing company is responsible for removing illegally parked or disabled vehicles.

Per Unified Command protocol, if an unexpected event happens during the planned special event, a transfer of command may occur. The decision to effect a transfer of command depends on the qualifications and experience of all on-site branch agency supervisors relative to that of the acting Incident Commander. For example, if a severe weather event took place during a planned special event, an emergency management agency official may assume the role of Incident Commander.

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. Unexpected events may necessitate adjusting the plan to meet changing circumstances. In this instance, there may not be the luxury of meeting with all stakeholders to develop a consensus on how to modify the plan. The Incident Commander should have the authority to make those adjustments that are needed.

organization chart of a Unified Command that manages travel for planned special events

Figure 9-2. Unified Command Organization for Planned Special Events D

Team Management

Typically for a planned special event, a representative of a law enforcement agency will take on the role of Incident Commander. Representatives of various agencies will, in turn, report to the Incident Commander. Among those working under the Incident Commander will be one or more transportation representatives. A lead person should be identified for each agency responsible for part of the traffic management plan. Among those who may be a part of the transportation team are representatives from the state department of transportation, local traffic agencies, toll agencies and transit agencies. Depending upon what is worked out in the event operations planning phase, all of these individuals may be represented by a single Incident Commander (e.g., transportation commander) or by individuals representing each of their respective agencies.

Command Post

The ICS will most likely be used in a multi-agency command post. Figure 9-3 shows a command post established at a freeway rest area for a major rural planned special event in Wisconsin. This will probably be at or near the venue where the planned special event takes place. Again, depending upon the size of the event, secondary command posts may exist. These secondary command posts may take on specific areas of responsibility, such as law enforcement or traffic control. Regardless of where the command post is located, or if it is located in multiple locations, the same principles of incident command will apply. An Incident Commander will still have overall responsibility for managing the event. What may differ, if there are secondary command posts, is how communications are handled to and from the Incident Commander.

two photos showing event command posts in window offices next to full parking lots. One photo shows a woman sitting at a table in front of two large wall maps, and the other shows a man using a telephone and standing at a table with two laptop computers

Figure 9-3. Planned Special Event Command Post (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin DOT.)

In some instances, a permanent TMC may serve as the primary command post. The advantage of using the TMC is that many of the communications resources and other needed tools are already in place. If the TMC is used, the ICS should still be employed if multiple agencies comprise the traffic management team. This operation would likely differ from typical activities in the TMC, given the presence of multiple outside agency representatives. In the event operations planning phase, the ICS would be used to identify who is the Incident Commander at the TMC and how activities are coordinated within the TMC during the event.

Advantages of a single command post include: (1) key agencies are represented in a single location and (2) communications among agencies are simplified.

An advantage of secondary command posts is that event management can be more easily switched if a problem develops at the primary command post.

Resource Planning

The plan developed for the resources needed for the event represent the collected best opinion on what is needed. Resource planning involves the following two parts: (1) determining the scope and amount of resources that will be used on the day-of-event and (2) identifying resources in advance in case the traffic management team needs more resources than planned to implement the traffic management plan.

The most important resource that stakeholders must plan for involve personnel resources. Planning considerations include:

  • What type and quantity of skilled personnel are needed?
  • Where should personnel be deployed?
  • What responsibilities will individual personnel have?

Most day-of-event field personnel will work in areas different from their normal, day-to-day work location. Relief for personnel may be more difficult to obtain because of agency constraints, and relief assignment should be part of personnel planning. Field personnel may require frequent breaks in difficult weather conditions, and traffic management team officials may have to substitute back-up staff if planned relief is not available.

The operation of planned special events on the day-of-event includes three phases: ingress, the event itself, and egress. Resources need to be available for all three phases with emphasis on ingress and egress. The traffic management team will likely need fewer personnel for traffic management during the event, and part of the planning should include what level of staffing is needed during this period. Depending on the length of the event, a second shift may report to handle egress. If a first (ingress) and second (egress) shift exists, traffic management team officials can stagger work times (e.g., first shift individual reporting later and leaving later or second shift individual reporting early and leaving early) to maintain sufficient personnel on-site during the event. Another consideration concerns how quickly staff and other resources can be deployed incase the event ends sooner than expected, thus causing early departures.

Managing Traffic

While the traffic management plan and supporting implementation plan notes how stakeholders expect to manage traffic, the actual management of traffic on the day-of-event may differ from what the plan calls for. Traffic incidents, changing weather conditions, and other unexpected events can all cause the traffic management plan to be modestly modified or completely changed. After safety, successfully managing traffic represents the reason why stakeholders developed the traffic management plan in the first place and that goal must remain paramount.

For this reason, it is important that involved stakeholders understand that the traffic management plan provides guidance but is not an ironclad law that must be followed regardless of what takes place on the day-of-event.

As part of the traffic management plan, various scenarios can be addressed from best case to worst case, together with likely variations. Having different scenarios and response plans specified in the traffic management plan will help managers more quickly respond to changes. Again, not every variation can be noted, but experienced staff can modify what the traffic management plan calls for.

When done well, managing traffic is done on a proactive basis, anticipating what will happen next and reacting before problems cascade. Like an orchestra conductor, the traffic managers are calling on different elements to play as the event proceeds. A traffic queue in one area will require adjustments to signal timing on primary and alternate routes. Traffic incidents not only require response to the site of the incident but the activation of appropriate messages on roadside traveler information devices.

As a general rule, drivers tend to be more understanding about a congestion delay if they are informed of what is taking place and are assured steps are being taken to mitigate the problem.

To properly manage traffic, the managers need timely and accurate information. Staff in the field must understand the importance of the information they provide, and staff at the command center must help the managers understand the information coming in, such as pointing out what is most important. Too much information without some interpretation is almost as worthless as too little information.

Other staff should be on hand to assist with other activities taking place in the command center. This includes handling VIPs, disseminating information to the media, and addressing routine items such as equipment problems.

Evaluation Activities

Although many hours have been spent creating the traffic management plan, the plan should remain flexible with the ability to modify and enhance it with necessary changes based on real-time traffic conditions. Updates can continue through the course of the planned special event, accounting for new situations and unexpected events. Evaluation of the plan is an ongoing activity during the event, and participants should contribute their insights as they witness the event unfolding. The traffic management team must be open to modifications of what had been agreed to during the event operations planning and implementation activities phases.

Table 9-3 indicates key traffic management plan evaluation activities on the day-of-event.

Table 9-3. Traffic Management Plan Evaluation Activities
  • Establish briefing schedule and location (e.g., command post).
  • Identify ranking representative of each stakeholder agency participating in briefings.
  • Conduct day-of-event briefing.
    • Situation status
    • Objectives and priorities
    • Current organization
    • Personnel and equipment resource assignments
    • Communications
    • Concerns and related issues
    • Recommended changes
  • Achieve consensus on recommended changes.

There are several different ways to accomplish this evaluation and revision process:

  • Some modifications will be minor in nature and will not require significant discussion. For example, moving a traffic post may be a simple change that improves the flow of traffic. The Incident Commander may have authority to make such a change.
  • A more significant change, such as the route of buses to the venue site, involves a greater number of agencies and individuals. These changes need to be discussed before being implemented to make certain everyone affected is aware of the change so that any concerns with the proposed change are addressed and overcome.
  • If the suggested change is urgent, a quick discussion among the agencies involved may suffice.
  • If it is not urgent, the modification can be discussed during a regularly scheduled meeting of the stakeholder representatives.

How and if these meetings are scheduled can vary depending upon the dynamics of the planned special event:

  • If the event is small in scale and only a few agencies are involved, there may be no need for scheduled meetings. Revisions can be easily discussed among participants at the command post.
  • On the other hand, large events involving many stakeholders would require meetings to discuss: (1) what has taken place, (2) what lies ahead, and (3) what changes are recommended.

If scheduled meetings are planned, the next question is when to hold these meetings:

  • If the event stretches over several days with a clear end time each day, it is logical to conduct a meeting at the end of each day's activities. At this point, the participants will not be distracted by managing the event, and they will have the benefit of their experience that day to decide what should be revised.
  • If the event is longer, perhaps even running around-the-clock, regular meetings can be scheduled during expected lulls in activity. These meetings may be specifically scheduled in anticipation of key activities, such as the egress of event patrons.
  • For events where a shift change is needed in the command center, a meeting of the crew, or crew supervisor, going off-duty may be helpful so they can recommend changes to those relieving them.

Many of the same procedures used during the creation of the plan can be used to make revisions during the event. Those involved discuss the changes, call for input from those directly affected, and agree on what will be done. It is important that any changes be communicated to all involved. Major problems can develop if one group is operating under old assumptions. In many cases, having a computer and printer available will make updates easier to share. If the plan is in a notebook or manual form, the revised section can just take the place of the old section. Participants should note on the revised plan that it represents an update and when that revision was made. This makes it easier to track changes and make certain everyone is operating with the same information.