Special Event Transport Management

Transportation Management During Sport and Cultural Events, Construction Projects and Emergencies


TDM Encyclopedia

Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Updated 11 June 2014

This chapter describes ways of managing transport to special events, and during construction projects and disasters.



Special Event Transport Management encourages the use of alternative travel modes to occasional events that draw large crowds, such as festivals, games and fairs, or when construction projects or disasters create temporary transportation problems. This can reduce traffic and parking problems, improve safety and security, reduce stress, and improve Transportation Options, particularly for non-drivers.


Special Event TDM includes many specific strategies to improve transportation options, manage transportation resources, and communicate with the traveling public. These can include:


·         Special Transit, Shuttle and Ridesharing services. In some cases it may be appropriate to incorporate the cost of transit service or a special shuttle bus into event admission fees, so participants can use these services at no extra cost.


·         Pedestrian And Cycling Improvements.


·         Parking Management and Shared Parking.


·         Vehicle Restrictions.


·         Commute Trip Reduction programs.


·         Marketing of alternative transportation options.


·         Smart Growth land-use management, so major activity centers (e.g. fair grounds and sports arena) are located for convenient access to population centers and public transit services.


·         Taxi Improvements, such as shared taxis.


·         Priority to emergency, service, freight and High Occupant vehicles in traffic and parking.


·         Transportation planning that provides appropriate redundancies and efficiencies to accommodate special and unexpected demands.


·         Cross-train staff to perform critical management and repair services.


·         Produce a Multi-Modal Access Guide, which concisely describes how to reach an event, highlighting efficient modes such as cycling, ridesharing and transit. This information can be incorporated into event invitations and publicity.



To appreciate the potential benefits of Special Event Transport Management, compare what is required to transport 50,000 participants at a major event, such as a game in a sports stadium, as summarized in Table 1. If participants travel by automobile which optimistically carry an average of 4 passengers, it requires 12,500 vehicles, and so needs about 100 acres of parking. Assuming there are four access lanes, each carrying a maximum of 1,000 vehicles per hour, it requires more than three hours to fill and empty. As a result, more time is spent travel to and exiting from the stadium than required for a typical sporting event.


Table 1          Transporting 50,000 Event Participants





12,500 (4/car)

1,000 (50/bus)

Parking (Acres)

100 (125/acre)

20 (50/acre)




Four Exit Lanes

3.1 Hours

0.5 Hours

This table compares automobile and bus access for transporting 50,000 event participants. Bus transport requires a fifth as much parking area and a sixth as much time.



However, the same number of participants can be transported by bus using a fifth of the parking area and a sixth as much time. As a result, bus transport can reduce costs and support the overall event experience. With good planning, bus transport can be enjoyable, if there are high quality buses, comfortable transit waiting areas with entertainment, priority for buses in traffic and parking, convenient user information (for example, it is easy to find where to catch a from various origins, and entertainment on buses.



How it is Implemented

Special Event TDM programs are usually implemented by event planners and managers, usually with cooperation from local government agencies. Event organizers, government agencies, or private companies may arrange overflow parking areas (for example, by renting available parking spaces from nearby businesses), and provide shuttle buses and special transit services. Private companies can organize car-free event packages (e.g., a single price for entrance to the event, transportation and meals). Public agencies may develop special transportation management plans for Emergency Response.



Travel Impacts

Travel impacts depend on the nature of the type and location of the event, the demographics of visitors, the TDM strategies that are implemented, and the types of trips involved. Large travel impacts are possible.


Table 2          Travel Impact Summary

Travel Impact



Reduces total traffic.


Reduces total vehicle travel.

Reduces peak period traffic.


Reduces traffic during peak seasons and times.

Shifts peak to off-peak periods.



Shifts automobile travel to alternative modes.


Encourages mode shifting.

Improves access, reduces the need for travel.



Increased ridesharing.


May include rideshare encouragement.

Increased public transit.


Often includes transit encouragement.

Increased cycling.


May include cycling encouragement.

Increased walking.


Often includes walking encouragement.

Increased Telework.



Reduced freight traffic.


May include some freight management.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.



Benefits And Costs

Benefits include reduced traffic congestion and parking problems, increased Transportation Options (particularly for non-drivers), consumer savings, increased transportation system Resilience and Security (particularly when used during Emergencies and Disasters), increased community Livability (reduced impacts on nearby residents), and a more enjoyable and unique experience for visitors.


Costs are primarily the financial expenses associated with developing a TDM program and providing services such as shuttle buses. Some event participants may be discouraged if restrictions on car use are considered burdensome or confusing.


Table 3          Benefit Summary




Congestion Reduction


Reduces peak-period vehicle traffic.

Road & Parking Savings


May avoid the need to expand roads and parking capacity.

Consumer Savings


Can increase affordable transport options.

Transport Choice


Increases transport choice for non-drivers.

Road Safety


Reduces vehicle traffic.

Environmental Protection


Reduces vehicle traffic and pavement requirements.

Efficient Land Use


Reduces road and parking requirements.

Community Livability


Reduces traffic impacts.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.



Equity Impacts

Special Event Transportation Management increases Transportation Options, particularly for non-drivers, which tends to benefit lower-income and transportation-disadvantaged people, and benefits just about everybody by reducing traffic and parking problems. Such programs may involve subsidies for program management and shuttle buses, but these are often no greater than subsidies for road and vehicle parking. They can improve Basic Access.


Table 4          Equity Summary




Treats everybody equally.


Services are generally available to anybody.

Individuals bear the costs they impose.


Requires subsidy, but often less than for motor vehicles.

Progressive with respect to income.


Usually improves affordable transport options.

Benefits transportation disadvantaged.


Increases transport options for non-drivers.

Improves basic mobility.


May improve basic transport.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.




This strategy can be appropriate in both large urban areas, where traffic problems are chronic, and in towns and rural areas where a major event can create significant acute, short-term traffic problems. Programs are usually planned and implemented by regional or local governments, or by developers and private companies that manage events.


Table 5          Application Summary





Large urban region.


Federal government.


High-density, urban.


State/provincial government.


Medium-density, urban/suburban.


Regional government.




Municipal/local government.


Low-density, rural.


Business Associations/TMA.


Commercial center.


Individual business.


Residential neighborhood.




Resort/recreation area.


Neighborhood association.






Ratings range from 0 (not appropriate) to 3 (very appropriate).




TDM Program



Relationships With Other TDM Strategies

Event transport management can include a variety of specific TDM strategies, including Transit Services, Shuttle Services, Ridesharing, Pedestrian and Cycling Improvements, Marketing, Parking Pricing, Parking Management, Vehicle Restrictions, and Commute Trip Reduction for event employees. This strategy overlaps Tourist Trip Management. It is a way to increase Transportation System Resilience, particularly when applied to emergencies and disasters.




Stakeholders can include event organizers, government agencies, travel services, visitors, participants, and employees.



Barriers To Implementation

Program funding is often a major barrier. Success usually requires support of event organizers, businesses, local organizations, and government agencies.



Best Practices

·         Transportation management should be considered in event siting and planning.


·         Special Transit, Shuttle and Rideshare services can be part of event planning. Tour packages can be organized, such as a dinner and bus transport to sporting or cultural events.


·         Marketing for special events should include information on alternative transportation. For example, people who prepurchase tickets can receive information on how to reach the event by transit.


·         Give HOV Priority for access and parking.


·         Pedestrian and Cycling Improvements may help provide access for people who arrive without a car.


·         Transportation systems should be designed for Resilience, with diversity, redundancy, efficiency, autonomy and strength in their critical components.



Wit and Humor

There was this man in a red convertible driving down the highway with two penguins in the backseat of his car. A cop pulled him over and said, “Hey, did you know that you have two penguins in the backseat of your car?”


The man replies, “Yeah, I know! What should I do with them?”


The police responds, “Well, I think that you should take them to the zoo.”


The next day the policeman sees the same car driving down the highway, and it still has the two penguins in the back seat. The policeman pulls it over again and says to the driver, “Hey, didn’t I tell you to take these penguins to the zoo?”


The man replies, “We did. And today we’re going to the movies!”



Examples and Case Studies


Baseball Fan Trip Management (www.sfmuni.com/routes/pacbsvc.htm)

Through a massive advertising campaign, the San Francisco Giants convinced half their fans to forsake cars when traveling to the new ballpark. This for a team that moved to Candlestick Park in 1960 for the parking spaces.


How did they do it? Public relations, says Giants ballpark transit director and former Allan Jacobs student Alfonso Felder. The Giants embarked on a mission to drill the pro-transit message into the soul of every single fan.


“Really, no matter how you interacted with the Giants, whether it was with our Web site, our broadcasts, whatever, it would have been hard not to have been touched by the message, which was that there were a number of ways to get to Pacific Bell Park and that you were encouraged to take transit.”



Franchise Owners Are Finding New Life in Old City Centers

Peter Keating, ESPN Magazine, 1 March 2004, p. 110.


Downtown homes are better for teams than suburbs. From the American Airlines Center in Dallas to Indy’s Conseco Fieldhouse to Safeco Field in Seattle, the best recent stadiums – places where fans connect most strongly to teams – are inside cities, not at a safe remove from them. “The trend is downtown,” says Sal Galatioto, an investment banker helping with the Nets sale. “It started with Abe Pollin moving the Wizards into the MCI Center in 1997. They’d been in Baltimore, moved to Landover, then moved to DC.


From 1965 to 1985, the number of major league franchises in suburbs rose from five to 29. Since then, 58 of 87 new major league stadiums or arenas have been built in or near central business districts of cities. Falling crime rates is one explanation, but there are others. Population density in cities lets urban teams (and advertisers) reach more fans than they could in suburbs. Downtown teams can also sell local entertainment besides sports, which has obvious appeal to anyone who has sat in a parking lot outside The Pond wondering what to do after a game. And well-developed systems of mass transit let fans reach teams more easily than they can in the suburbs. Finally, cities generally inspire stronger ties than do suburbs. “Teams can develop loyalty through allegiance to a well-defined location,” says Pilson. Playing in a city is an ideal way to build community identify and value.”



Special Event Ridesharing

King County Metro has incorporated special event ridematching into its regional rideshare program (www.rideshareonline.com). Seattle Center and the University of Washington are helping to promote the service in King County, hoping it will attract more attendees to events at their venues. To use the service, visit the website and select an event from a list that currently features more than 30 picks. Then, enter some basic information, including your name and home address or a nearby intersection. If others who live near you are also looking for a buddy for that event, their e-mail addresses will pop up. You can even check a map to see who's attending and lives closest to your home. People then e-mail one another privately, screening potential buddies for the right match.


In coming months Metro plans to launch a similar effort organizing rides to private events. In a region where traffic worsens by the year, the ability to go online and find a car pool fast can revolutionize the way people get around, according to Metro Planner Park Woodworth, or helped establish the program. The possibilities are endless, including business meetings, little League games, industry events, weddings. Neighbors on their way to the grocery could even get online to check whether a nearby senior citizen needs a lift, producing social benefits in addition to environmental and cost-saving benefits.



MOST (Mobility Management Strategies) (http://mo.st)

MOST is a European partnerships to encourage sustainable transportation, with special programs dealing with travel related to tourism, medical services, education and special events. It's main aim is to develop and evaluate Mobility Management (MM) strategies. It is a combined research and demonstration project. MOST is sponsoring a number of case studies and examples of mobility management at temporary sites, including festivals, fairs and other large sports and cultural events, and when transportation facilities are under construction. Two examples are described below.

Athens Olympics

A mobility management program was developed to facilitate the efficient movement of the thousands of visitors in Athens, Greece during the 2004 Olympics. The project was supported by the Olympic Games Organizing Committee. It included "Olympic Test Days" starting in 2001 and increasing their frequency up to 2004. Private car use was restricted and transportation alternatives provided for inhabitants in certain areas of the city.

Leipzig City Center Tram Project

The city of Leipzig, Germany is performing a major reconstruction of its tram system that will temporarily block downtown streets and tram service. Special programs will help inhabitants, clients and guests obtain information about this project and maintain mobility during the construction period. Experience so far indicates great interest and need for this information and mobility management services. During the construction period information and mobility services are available at a special bus parked next to the tram depot. Between June and September 2001 about 4,800 people took visited the bus to obtain information. The press has been more positive than with previous construction projects.



University of Central Florida Football Stadium Transportation Management Program

The University of Central Florida (UCF), the eighth largest university in the United States, built a brand new 45,000-seat football stadium in 2007. UCF prides itself on being a good corporate neighbor and so committed to mitigate stadium traffic and parking impacts to the best of its ability. It therefore recommended as a part of a Campus Master Plan (CMP) update a Transportation Management Program (TMP) to outline a multifaceted approach to dealing with the special event traffic generated by the football stadium.


The study was unique in several aspects. First, it included a robust public outreach program that sought to inform all nearby residents and business owners as to the operational characteristics of game day operations and to solicit their input and concerns related to game day traffic. The study was also unique due in no small part to the venue being evaluated as well as the depth and breadth of areas covered and the multifaceted approach to dealing with the special event traffic generated by the football stadium.  Specifically the study was designed to address:


To ensure that the university was involved, a traffic stakeholder group was established at the outset of the study that included staff members from the public works, police and fire departments of the three affected municipalities as well as approximately six UCF staff members representing various departments within the University. Meetings with this group were held monthly and numerous other smaller meetings were held with individual UCF staff, including the president. To ensure a conservative plan all analyses were performed assuming a sold-out game with 45,000 attendees and several thousand other participants including the teams, vendors, media, police and emergency services.



Dallas Cowboys Stadium (Brooks 2009)

Traffic impacts are being managed for the Dallas Cowboys new stadium near the Texas Rangers ballpark and the Six Flags Over Texas Amusement Park. Without transit available, 25,000-30,000 vehicles will arrive and depart during major events. To help mitigate the impacts, most visitors will be assigned to parking lots to help direct smooth traffic flow. State-of-the-art interactive tools are being used to communicate with ticket holders to help them plan their travel routes.



Special Event Parking Management (Fornal, Rylander and LeTourneau, 2006)

The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has developed an Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS) and downtown shuttle bus service to address parking problems during summer festivals that attracts many thousands of visitors to downtown Milwaukee. The system provides motorists with real-time traveler information about available parking in the area, and promotes use of the shuttle service.



Highway 101 Construction (www.slonet.org/vv/iprideon/about.html)

During a 3-year freeway widening project on Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo County, local and state transportation agencies worked together to implement TDM programs to reduce peak period traffic volumes by 12% during the construction period. The program has a $3 million budget to provide TDM Marketing, Ridesharing and Transit Service Improvements.



Office of Operations (http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov)

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Operations has several case studies of special event transport management programs:

·         Seahawks Stadium (http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/mitig_traf_cong/seahawks_case.htm)

·         Summerfest and Concert Tour (http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/mitig_traf_cong/summerfest_case.htm)

·         SBC Ballpark (http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/mitig_traf_cong/pac_bell_case.htm)



Houston, Texas Rodeo Express Transit (Trout and Ullman, 1997)

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) is the largest livestock exhibit in the world. It attracts two three million visitors and generates more than a quarter billion dollars in revenue during two weeks of operation at the Astrodome each February. To address the huge traffic and parking problems created by these huge crowds, in 1988 HLSR officials and regional transportation agencies organized the Rodeo METRO Express, a park-and-ride shuttle bus service which averages 16,000 patrons per day, representing more than 15% of rodeo attendance. Buses are given priority access to the Astrodome, resulting in significant time savings to those who use the shuttle. Adults pay a $2 per round-trip fare, and children are free. This service has reduced traffic and parking problems, allowing the rodeo to expand and attract new patrons. The program is considered cost effective, with 77% of expenses paid by users, and the remainder funded by sponsorships and the HLSR.



References And Resources For More Information


ACT (2004), The Role Of Demand-Side Strategies: Mitigating Traffic Congestion, Association for Commuter Transportation, for the Federal Highway Administration (http://tmi.cob.fsu.edu/act/FHWA_Cong_Mitigation_11%202%2004.pdf).


APTA (2000), A Winning Team: Transit and Sports Facilities, American Public Transit Association (www.apta.com).


Carol Becker (2013), Mitigating Highway Construction Impacts Through the Use of Transit, Report no. MnDOT 2013-13, University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies (www.cts.umn.edu) for the Minnesota Department of Transportation; at www.cts.umn.edu/Publications/ResearchReports/reportdetail.html?id=2286.


Daniel Boyle and Thomas F. Larwin (2008), Public Transit Access to Major League Ballparks: An Informational Report of the Institute of Transportation Engineers Transit Council, Institute of Transportation Engineers (www.ite.org).


Robert D. Brooks (2009), An Innovative Approach to Special Event Management, Planning for the Dallas Cowboys New Stadium: Case Study, Institute of Transportation Engineers (www.ite.org); at www.ite.org/councils/Trans_Plan/CaseStudy5.pdf.


Jodi Carson and Ryan Bylsma (2003), Transportation Planning and Management for Special Events, NCHRP Synthesis 309, Transportation Research Board (www.trb.org); at http://trb.org/news/blurb_detail.asp?id=1327.


Matt Craig (2011), “TransLink and the 2010 Olympic Winter Games,” ITE Journal (www.ite.org), Vol. 81, No. 1, January, pp. 56-60.


J. Joseph Cronin, Roscoe Hightower and Michael Brady (2000), “Niche Market Strategies; The Role of Special Purpose Transportation Efforts in Attracting and Retaining Transit Users” Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 3, No. 3 (www.cutr.eng.usf.edu), pp. 63-86.


CUTR (2006), Special Event Transportation Service Planning and Operations Strategies for Transit, Center for Urban Transport Research, Office of Research and Special Programs, USDOT and Florida Department of Transportation (www.dot.state.fl.us); at www.dot.state.fl.us/research-center/Completed_Proj/Summary_PTO/FDOT_BD549_09_rpt.pdf.


Dunn Engineering (2002), Transportation Management Strategies for Special Events: Synthesis of Practice, FHWA, (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_syn_309d.pdf).


Reid Ewing (1997), Transportation and Land Use Innovations; When You Can’t Build Your Way Out of Congestion, Planners Press (www.planning.com).


FHWA (2003), Managing Travel For Planned Special Events Handbook, Office of Transportation Management, Federal Highway Administration (www.fhwa.dot.gov); at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/program_areas/sp-events-mgmt/handbook/handbook.pdf.


FHWA (2004), Managing Travel for Planned Special Events: First National Conference Proceedings, Office of Operations, FHWA (www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov); at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/program_areas/conf1204/index.htm.


FHWA (2006), Planned Special Events: Checklists for Practitioners, U.S. Federal Highway Administration; at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/psechecklists/index.htm.


FHWA (2006), Developing and Implementing Transportation Management Plans for Work Zones, Office of Operations, Federal Highway Administration (www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov).


FHWA (2004), Meeting the Customer’s Needs for Mobility and Safety During Construction and Maintenance Operations: Model Work Zone Traffic Management Program and Self Evaluation Guide, Office of Program Quality Coordination, Federal Highway Administration (www.fhwa.dot.gov).


Chris J. Fornal, Gary F. Rylander and Matthew J. LeTourneau (2006), “Milwaukee, WI, USA’s Summerfest Advanced Parking Guidance System,” ITE Journal, Vol. 76, No. 6 (www.ite.org), June 2006, pp. 34-44.


John M. Frantzeskakis and Michael J. Frantzeskakis (2006), “Athens 2004 Olympic Games: Transport Planning, Simulation and Traffic Management,” ITE Journal, Vol. 76. No. 10 (www.ite.org), October 2006, pp. 26-32.


Genevieve Giuliano and Jacqueline Golog (1998), “Impacts of the Northridge Earthquake on Transit and Highway Use,” Journal of Transportation Statistics, Vol. 1, No. 2 (www.bts.gov), May 1998, pp. 1-20.


Todd Litman (1999), First Resort; Resort Community Transportation Management, VTPI (www.vtpi.org).


MOST (2000), “Mobility Management for Temporary Sites,” MOST News, No. 1 (http://mo.st).


MOST (2009) Roll Out The GREEN Carpet! A Guide To Including Sustainable Transportation And Other Ideas For Greening Your Festivals And Events, Bathurst Sustainable Development (www.bathurstsustainabledevelopment.com).


Planned Special Events Traffic Management Website (www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/program_areas/sp-evnts-mgmt.htm), sponsored by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, provides information on special event traffic management.


Brian D. Taylor and Martin Wachs (2014), “Carmageddon in Los Angeles: The Sizzle and the Fizzle,” Access 44, Spring, pp. 10-16; at www.uctc.net/access/44/access44_carmageddon.shtml.


T-Rex Project (www.trexproject.com) includes both light-rail and major highway improvements in Denver, Colorado. During construction the project included a variety of information and services to provide mobility options and reduce traffic congestion, including ridematching, commute trip reduction programs, flexible work hours and real-time traffic information.


TravelSmart (2004), TravelSmart Special Events Planning Resource Kit, Australian Greenhouse Office Travel Smart Program (www.travelsmart.gov.au/events).


Nada D. Trout and Gerald L. Ullman (1997), “A Special Event Park-and-Ride Shuttle Bus Success Story,” ITE Journal, December 1997, pp. 38-43.


USDOT (2010), Advancing Metropolitan Planning for Operations: The Building Blocks of a Model Transportation Plan Incorporating Operations - A Desk Reference, Planning for Operations, US Department of Transportation (www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov); at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop10027/index.htm.

This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.




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