Transport is a critical event planning activity, and one you need to get right. In our experience, event organisers play a limited role in the planning, organising, and funding of transport services. Event transport often falls to the relevant transport agency to plan and fund additional services required to get customers to and from the event safely.
A lot goes in to creating a forgettable, unremarkable public transport experience. Especially during events At Transport Toolkit, we acknowledge that the overall success of an event can be enormously influenced by the success or failure of a well-planned and executed service plan. Get it right and the attendees will only remember the hits, goals, songs and talent on the field. Get it wrong and the memories can be tainted by long bus queues, sore feet and complaints. We all can probably recall and event where transport has gone wrong and it tends to be very newsworthy. A couple of very high-profile events failures include:
- Rio Olympics in 2016
- Atlanta Olympics in 1996
In this article, we explore some of the challenges transport planners must consider when performing the event planning activities.
So, what do you need to consider to make sure you get event transport right? Here are our top nine elements to consider when next planning event transport:
- Short notice. At times, planners are provided with limited time to organise services. A good example is when sporting finals are played at locations based on who wins the week before. This situation only gives one week to put all the necessary arrangements in place. Consider what you do at short notice to ensure your transport plan holds firm under pressure. This may include the need to establish Clearways and remove parking. Keep in mind any local regulations around notice periods to residents informing them of the altered parking situation. This will require some proactive planning to secure the necessary arrangements.
- Crowd attendance numbers. This elusive piece of data is often unavailable from event organisers. And if you do get this information, the location from which the attendees travel aka the most important element for transport planners, is hard to get a hold of. This information vacuum creates some uncertainties around the number of services required to get customers to the event in a timely manner. A further complication arises when an event is attended by customers who travel from a work location and not the home address, which is generally captured via the ticket purchase process. The ticket sales will indicate potential origin and destination based on postcodes, but when a significant number of customers purchase tickets at the ground or event (walk-up’s) the transport requirements can be difficult to predict.
- Bump out. This is often the most challenging time for the event transport operation. The event bump in usually occurs over a few hours and the transport demand is spread. However, the event finish usually creates a situation where most customers depart the event location at the same time. This can create customer delays and large lines and waiting times.
- Drivers unfamiliar with the route or any specific loading protocols. Drivers are generally familiar with their day-to-day routes, but when a special event occurs, some may simply not know where they are going. Drivers taking wrong turns and getting lost can be disastrous during an event, leading to operational delays and frazzled customers. This is something that the operator should mitigate by ensuring sufficient training is provided to all drivers.
- Vehicle breakdowns. Vehicle breakdowns are inevitable and have a habit of occurring at the worst possible time. Being prepared for such situations is essential especially if it is likely to cause massive disruption and lead to bad media. To mitigate this situation, we suggest working with your transport authority and have a mechanic and a tow truck at critical locations ready to respond to any unplanned breakdown.
- Events go overtime or finish early. Events can be unpredictable and can finish early or be extended. This can create number of issues for a smooth transport operation. If the event finishes late, drivers can run out of driving hours due to meal break requirements or fatigue rules. On the other hand, if an event finishes early, it may take time to get the necessary transport resources in place to manage the bump out. Add some flexibility into your transport plan by having an additional stand-by buses or access to resources that can respond at short notice.
- Unplanned Road closures causing transport diversions. At times, an event crowd will depart in a critical mass situation and pose as safety risk to a nearby road network. This may cause the local police or relevant authority to close the road and enable free flow pedestrian situation. If this occurs, some regular or event bussing services maybe diverted to an alternate location. This then creates a significant wayfinding challenge for customers wanting to travel from the event.
- Fare collection. As the bump in usually creates a critical mass of customers, it is often difficult to load buses and keep them moving if the dwell time is increased due to the fare collection process. You also need to consider that some customers may have had a few drinks and getting a fare off them is sometimes not easy. Our top tip? Include the transport cost into the ticket price for the event. If that is not possible, charging customers for a return journey on the forward trip will save your drivers valuable time and reduce stress during the busy bump out.
- Lack of vehicles. If an event requires significant transport resources and it occurs on a weeknight or over the evening peak, changes are most transport assets are already being utilised. Even on a weeknight if the event finishes late, say after 10pm, by the time the drivers complete their work, they will be unavailable for a day shift the following days. They will not have sufficient rest. This is a key consideration to factor in when finalising your transport plans. We always err on the side of caution and have standby vehicles at the ready just in case.
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