A Strategic Approach to Traffic Management at Large Events

12 May

A Strategic Approach to Traffic Management at Large Events

For starters, you will never need a Traffic Management Plan (TMP); until we hit the ground running. When people are hooting and screaming at each other. Then a plan seems like a very good idea now. Especially where staff are running around like rats on a sinking ship, direction less, un co-ordinated – when late comers still need to pitch a tent, and the eager security guard, has already shown people to park, right over the envisage area. Then tempers get hot and chaos ensues.

Proper planning, co-ordination, and execution are a must have, a strategic science and art.

We will be looking at the importance of having a STRATEGY, with pre – planned parking layouts and a Traffic Management Plan.

There are several ways to start your planning, but the best way is to get specifics, and as much info possible first.

  1. What are the modes of traffic to consider for this event?
  2. What time of day will it be?
  3. The duration?
  4. The expected turn out?
  5. The nature of the event?
  6. Its history if any?
  7. Previous records, debriefing reports by Police, Traffic Police, Metro Police, Traffic departments – anyone.

Start by looking at the bulk mode of transport first.

This will inform you of your focus areas, and its derivatives. There are several modes of traffic to anticipate; starting with the most common and obvious – people forget this – yes being a pedestrian is a mode of transport; they also bring with them baby strollers, bicycles, wheelchairs, trolleys, carts, bags, back packs and then the bigger more conventional motorbikes, quad bikes, motor vehicles, mini vans, trucks, abnormal vehicles, buses, taxis, plains, boats and trains to name but a few. All these aspects need to be catered for as well; in terms of;

  1. Security – of all aspects concerned with patrons property and life in mind.
  2. Safety – prohibited substances, come in via modes of transport etc. search areas, get people to buy online, or at supermarkets, or register online and collect tickets in the vehicle park…
  3. Safeguarding – have facilities, options, in place for patrons to hire or pay for safeguarding. Have security levels around your event. No private vehicles, only shuttles beyond this point signs, etc.. Only pedestrians, etc..
  4. Storage – have lockers available for rental, bicycle sheds, motorbike stands
  5. Scanning – have scanners built in to detect vapor, x-ray, and scan for explosives, and other safety and security issues. Or don’t allow them at all, until they have gone to an offsite vehicle scanner park, for vetting, and certification.

Each form of transport has each its own unique and common characteristics, compared with that of other forms of transport. This will inform us of how to orientate ourselves when planning.

Characteristics of transport;

The common elements are;

  1. Speed
  2. Size
  3. Maneuverability
  4. Accessibility
  5. Capacity
  6. Capability

The unique elements are;

  1. Design characteristics; that give it certain limitations or abilities, IE.  – 4×4 – three wheeler – tractor, racing car… some are good at some terrain others are better at speed, and then others are great at pulling things.
  2. Node specific – see, water, air, road, rail, dirt, space or combinations…
  3. Type – goods, passenger, specific, specialized, and agricultural/ industrial

Therefore; when we look at designing a traffic management plan all these characteristics play a critical role, and need to be incorporated in the business hypotheses to make sense,  the one thing we need to look out for first is, what nodes – types of infrastructure – connects our venue to the patrons, and what type of transport modes do they accommodate. How big is this events spread, or footprint…? Does it or will it affect the local community, region, province, etc?

  1. There might be roads, but they could be too small for cars, and the main node could be water ways, like in Venice (Italy) for instance.
  2. An intersect could also be understood to imply, a handover from one form to the next, so we may have a train station, that hands over to pedestrian traffic for instance,
  3. the mode of transport changes where the node ends, or intersects.
  4. The type of event will also determine the spread of nodes; starting from a local event, to regional, to provincial, to national, right up to an international, and then also VVip events, heads of state…
  5. Then the factors common totraffic congestion become focal.
    1. For instance; where pedestrians want to cross a road at a pedestrian crossing, then the speed of vehicles and the speed of a pedestrians intersect, the slowest speed dictate the fastest rate of transfer at that point.. (Implying that the amount of vehicles passing through, versus the amount of pedestrians – say 6 pedestrians for every one vehicle, constitutes a cycle time of 2 minutes. Cycle times can give you an indication of how long it will take to clear an intersection running at full capacity for instance…) will take to clear…

With knowledge of this nature in hand one can plan for contingencies. Like having points-men manning intersections, automation, or setting cycles on a robot – traffic light for instance…etc. then we are per-empting heavy traffic…and minimizing the bottlenecks.

Bottle necks and choke points are only diluted through proper planning of all nodes and modes of transport in mind.

Contingency planning and flexibility is key to minimizing the effect of bottlenecks and choke points. .

In addition – we should also consider extremes;

  1. like if the weather conditions are such that the car parking areas become waterlogged then you must be able to use alternative sites.
  2. Grass cutting and cleaning up the dirt/ grass parking sites,
  3. as well as filling in holes,
  4. putting up lights
  5. having fire extinguisher on hand, etc is all good ideas.

The next issue is size; size impacts on all the other aspects of traffic flow; speed, maneuverability, accessibility, capacity, capability etc…

For instance;

  1. the larger the number of patrons the greater the knock-on effect becomes; more vehicles, buses, taxis, construction vehicles, emergency vehicles etc, then we should revisit our;
    1.  turning radius and spaces between columns in parking areas,
    2. the greater the capacity required to deal with them – more guards, marshals, and traffic wardens, and points men…
    3. it will also impact on security and other risk factors only applicable to large events
    4.  and then subsequently the greater the planning and considerations become.

With this said let’s look at the planning of a traffic flow diagram…first and then address parking layouts.

Take note; No two events, and even stadiums are the same, there is no one template for all types of events, especially if you have events running in parallel.

First the principles that work best – or best practices – are;

  1. Try to get the traffic to move around the venue in a circle pattern, clockwise for instance, with one entrance and one exist if possible, then you can in most cases use two lanes.
  2. Make use of trained traffic controllers – they can adjust at a minutes’ notice – traffic police / wardens.
  3. Make use of road traffic signs, and information boards, knowledge is power – advertise / communicate.
  4. Where you have more than one entrance, then two or more strategies are required, for entrance and exit – at a show or sports event for instance, where everyone wants to be in by say 6pm and out by 9pm. You will have two sudden peaks…
  5. With random ingress en egress, the traffic should be channeled as far as possible – shown where to go…compelled to follow specify routes in and out…create order.
  6. Parking layout and planning, and the physical demarcation of it is a must, always, and also dedicate parking areas for specific types of transport; cars, motorbikes, mini-busses, handicapped, emergency vehicles, vendors, service suppliers and busses etc. never attempt to mix them up.
  7. Make use of transfer areas, where you switch from one mode of transport to the next smaller is a faster mode… trains to travelators, mini buses to golf carts etc…

The purpose of a Traffic Management Plan

Remember, we are planning for people that in most instances have never been to the venue. They pay our salary, so they are the customer, and the customer is always right. Patron access must be planned to ensure there is no disruption, and confrontation, or infringement to neighbouring businesses or homes either and to ensure clear access by emergency services and event staff. It’s a balancing act, keep everyone happy. There must be a structure, and a command and control element, backed up by a plan.

Event organisers are expected and must make arrangements for the following:

• Adequate, safe and secure car parking space, including over-flow parking

• Access for people with disabilities

• Preferred/ priority access routes to the venue

• Adequate lighting and visible security

• Shuttle buses where venue/activity covers a large area and info boards, directions…

In addition to the public vehicles arriving on site there are traders, vendors, performers and service suppliers, as well as VIP vehicles. That should be catered for. The best is to have separate times, gates, and operational protocol for them. Work on accreditation.

Road Closures

Will there be any road closures for the event? What roads will be closed for the event?

This is not a well liked practice by the locals. So if you do it, do it right. Start with the development of a traffic management plan, and submit the application to Council for approval and then start

Advertising, well in advance to your event – at least six (6) weeks prior to the event.

On lodgement of the information, Council officers will inspect the area for the proposed

temporary street closure and advise the applicant if it is practical and safe to do so for the purpose of conducting the event. The closure will apply only to that section of street nominated as approved by Council and it is the responsibility of the application to provide evidence that emergency services have been notified of the temporary street closure.

The street closure is to be effected using appropriate barricades, warning signs and warning lights as detailed in the Traffic Management Plan submitted. You will be advised, I presume by the traffic department, metro or police concerned in this regard I am sure.

The Event Manager will be responsible for the clearing of rubbish from the area following the event.

Parking areas

Getting to and from the Event should be made as easy as possible. By talking with the public transport operators at an early stage, it may be possible to increase the frequency of buses, or increase the capacity of trains. Thus alleviating the congestion and density of parking areas.

The layout of parking areas goes hand in hand with the terrain map. Most organisers don’t bother with a terrain map. This is a very important tool to plan the structure and layout of any event that will make use of temporary structures, and will make of rural parking, or temporary parking spaces.

Aspect to consider;

It is very easy today to draw an on scale terrain map, with the use of Goole Earth, where you get the street map, and an aerial view, as well as street view. You can now draw in the details you need for presentations.

Have a bench mark, a checklist, and ask these questions, to make sure what you planned is implemented and checked.

Preliminary Site Assessment Checklist (SWOT assessment)

Factors Description

Entry and Exit points

  1. How many? Pedestrian or
  2. Vehicle access?
  3. Allow for emergency access?
  4. Easily accessible? Gradient, pavements, rocks, sloped etc.
  5. Well signed?

Emergency Routes

  1. Is there access to all areas on site for all types of emergency vehicles – especially fire trucks?

Safety of Site

  1. Are there features of the site that would need to be marked and could pose a risk and effect the site plan e.g. river, ponds, streams, dams…

Power points

  1. Where are the power points?
  2. Are they easily accessible?
  3. Do we require a COC – Certificate Of Compliance  -for them,
  4. What is their capacity?
  5. Do they have isolators on?
  6. Are they child safe?

Do vehicles need to be made aware of overhead power lines?

Central area/stage Are there many options for the positioning of the central arena/stage?

Which is the most appropriate and why?

Is there enough space for the audience?

Stall area is the topography reasonably level?

Is the area prone to flooding?

Is there enough room for people to circulate around the stalls?

Parking Is the car park in reasonable distance from the event?

Is there an area for disabled parking? If parking in the park (in an area that is not usually designated for parking) is the ground and topography suitable?

The points that need to be on the terrain map.

•  Position of trees – check trees for broken branches, or dangerous growth and remove

•  Emergency routes, and evacuation area through undesignated areas – areas not used readily.

•  Emergency staging area, if overflow, plan B

•  Audience space, pertaining to overflow, and closable stage barriers positioning

•  Parking areas layout and rout directions – flow pattern. The placement of fire extinguishers and grass beaters. This will include any pay points, and collection points for tickets as well as the placing of barriers and cordon tape.

•  General safety of the site – no go and restricted areas, holes, pot holes, broken fences, lights, windows, doors, tiles, floors, and water pipes leaking, exposed drains, covers missing from storm water pipes, rubbish, broken glass –  etc…

Then a supplementary to this we have a key infrastructure facilities map

This map shows detailed placement and dimensions of areas…

•  Staging areas and evacuation points

•  PA system spread

•  Toilets positioning

•  Crowd barriers placement

•  Marquees and gazebos placement

•  First Aid tent placement

•  Information tent placement

•  Power points required and placement

•  Parking designation – emergency vehicles, staff, security, service suppliers, vendors, etc and areas for bulk, busses, heavy motor vehicles, and construction rigs, and TV vans etc.

•  Emergency Entrance and exit points

Great leaders had great inspiration, that comes from radical and revolutionary ideas, principles, and practices, all meshed into a capability for considerable insight, here we have exactly that… just waiting for you…read my book, get it here.

More related links;

2 Responses to “A Strategic Approach to Traffic Management at Large Events”


  1. A Standard Operating Procedure for Strategic, Security, Emergency, Disaster & Event Management Planning. « Strategic Management - May 12, 2012

    […] Parking arrangements for / VIP’s, and staff / vendors. Parking guards to facilitate proper parking layout, in rows. […]

  2. Index of posts on this blog – Strategic Management « Strategic Management - July 2, 2012

    […] A Strategic Approach to Traffic Management at Large Events […]

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