Athens 2004 Olympic Games: Transportation Planning, Simulation and Traffic Management

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1 Athens 2004 Olympic Games: Transportation Planning, Simulation and Traffic Management PLANNING AND MANAGING THE TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE OLYMPIC GAMES IS A COMPLEX TASK. THIS FEATURE SUMMARIZES THE EFFORTS THAT LED TO THE SUCCESSFUL 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES IN ATHENS, GREECE. BY JOHN M. FRANTZESKAKIS, PH.D. AND MICHAEL J. FRANTZESKAKIS INTRODUCTION Planning and managing the transportation infrastructure for the Olympic Games is a complex and difficult task. Host cities already have traffic problems and must secure acceptable levels of service for continuously increasing traffic needs. A large and systematic effort is neccessary to manage the addition of large and concentrated (in terms of both space and time) traffic generated by Olympic movements, and it requires a considerable improvement of the existing infrastructure. The problem becomes more complex as athletic and other special events are added and as the size of the Olympic family and the number of spectators increases. The extra security measures, necessary because of the increased threat of terrorism, create additional difficulties. Athens, Greece, was a badly congested metropolitan area before the Olympic Games, with some 4.5 million inhabitants, a fast increasing car ownership rate of 350 cars per 1,000 inhabitants and only 30 percent of daily movements using public transport. A severe lack of off-street parking resulted in some 25,000 illegally parked vehicles every day in the central area and greatly contributed to traffic congestion. It was necessary to make a concerted effort in preparing and supporting the Olympic candidacy file and an even greater effort to implement the commitments. The official statistics of the Olympic Games are as follows: 11,099 athletes from 202 countries participated in 301 events, which took place in 35 athletic venues. 3,581,080 tickets were sold, and an Olympic Games record of 3.9 billion television spectators was attained. 21,000 accredited representatives of media covered the games 9,000 of whom were hosted in seven press villages. 300 television stations devoted a total of 35,000 hours for the games. 11,000 employees and 45,000 volunteers worked for the games. THE CANDIDACY FILE After an unsuccessful effort to host the 1996 Olympic Games, the 2004 Olympic Games were assigned to Athens. In the Transportation chapter of the 2004 candidacy file, a large number of projects were proposed to expand and improve the transportation infrastructure, as well as a systematic traffic management effort. 1 Some projects were under construction, such as a new international airport, extensive additions and improvements to the metro system and a freeway bypassing the central area of Athens and connecting the new airport. The drawbacks of the Athens traffic situation at that time were converted to advantages because of: The large additional capacity provided through the numerous projects in the planning/design stage or under construction, which were programmed to be completed in time for the games. The exploitation of the existing large margins for improvement through systematic traffic management and police enforcement. The use of new technologies (upgrading the signalization system and traffic control centers, machine vision, variable message signs, etc.). 2 The favorable location of all major trip generators along or near a high capacity Olympic ring and the provision of alternative routings. Olympic 26 ITE JOURNAL / OCTOBER 2006

2 lanes for the exclusive use of the Olympic family and for the spectators special express buses were provided to secure unhindered flow for these critical categories of movements. The completion of the above improvements, just before the games, left no time margins for saturation. The existing experience in facing special traffic problems by complete or partial prohibition (by even and odd license plate numbers) of private cars in circulation in two pre-determined critical areas the 13-square-kilometer central area defined by the inner ring road and the 140 square kilometers within the outer ring road. The evaluation report of the International Olympic Committee stated: Athens presently has significant problems with airport access and transportation in the city. However, major projects are proposed and already underway to alleviate the situation. Transportation during the games will be facilitated through the use of dedicated lanes and restrictions in the use of private vehicles. 3 It should be mentioned that all proposals in the candidacy file were implemented. OLYMPIC TRANSPORT STRATEGIC AND OPERATION PLANS After a considerable starting delay, the Transport Division of the Organizing Committee for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games (ATHOC) was organized. With the assistance of consultants and in close cooperation with the services of the ministries involved (mainly Environment Physical Planning and Public Works, Transport and Communications and Public Order), an Olympic transport strategic plan and, subsequently, an operation plan were prepared, which became the basis for programming and implementing all related studies and designs. 4, 5 In the strategic plan, the Olympic transportation system and the traffic management proposed in the candidacy file were checked and finalized, highlighting the experiences of more recent Olympic Games, especially those of Sydney, Australia. Figure 1 outlines the structure of the Olympic transport strategic plan in relation to the major venues and Figure 1. Olympic transport strategic plan. gates to the greater Athens area. The favorable location of all major venues along the Olympic ring and the other Olympic avenues is apparent. The strategic plan s goals were implemented in the operation plan, which included policy and priority measures; transportation system and demand management; communication policies and public information; test events; and special needs. SIMULATION OF MOVEMENTS Expected Olympic and normal city traffic movements were estimated using various simulation models and prediction tools: At the greater Athens area level, a comprehensive transportation model was developed using the EMME2 software. The redistribution of normal city traffic due to both the availability of new infrastructure and the effect of the Olympic Games was estimated for selected peak periods. For the prediction of the Olympic family and spectators movements, a specific software tool was developed to estimate the expected demand and origin-destination matrices in detail for these movements during the Olympic Games. For the assignment and simulation of Olympic family movements in the city and in the vicinity of the Olympic venues at specific peak periods, traffic models based on the SATURN software were developed. EMME2 Comprehensive Transportation Model An EMME2 transportation model for the greater Athens area originally was developed in 1996 by Attiko Metro S.A. and is based on the results of an extensive origin-destination, transportation characteristics and infrastructure inventory survey. It has been maintained and constantly updated since then. Since this model initially was developed, a large increase in new traffic infrastructure was planned. With the assignment of the 2004 Olympic Games to Athens, priorities were revised to take advantage of this new infrastructure during the Olympic Games. Existing traffic conditions in the greater Athens area were expected to change drastically when the new infrastructure would become available just before the games. ITE JOURNAL / OCTOBER

3 In the first stage, the EMME2 model was used to predict these changes regardless of the games and to provide traffic volume estimates for normal city traffic in typical winter and summer periods of In the second stage, expected changes in traffic movements due to the games were predicted during August 2004 and included in the model. 6 Finally, the additional Olympic Games related traffic as estimated from the specific models mentioned in the following paragraphs was incorporated in the EMME2 model. Additionally, the various traffic management measures proposed to be applied during the Olympic Games period were included in the model. These measures affect both the capacity of the traffic network (such as traffic lanes for the exclusive use of the Olympic family) and the trip characteristics (such as rescheduling public transport services). The model was applied for a number of specific peak periods critical for the combined normal city traffic and Olympic Games related traffic. The results were used to evaluate alternative scenarios and identify critical areas that would require additional measures. Olympic Movement Demand Estimates A specific software tool was developed to implement a methodology for estimating the expected demand and origin-destination matrices of all Olympic Games related movements in detail. The estimates were applied for the following user groups: Spectators Public transport Members of the international and national Olympic committees and VIPs Accredited car and driver for use by one, two, or three persons Sponsors Accredited bus transport Workforce (volunteers and employees) Public transport Press and media Accredited bus transport or private passenger cars The following input/assumptions were used for the estimates: Detailed schedule of events Venue capacities and allocation of seats to the various Olympic family categories Accommodation locations (hotels, press villages, cruisers) by Olympic Figure 2. Predicted traffic volumes of Olympic family vehicles and spectator buses. family category Distribution of spectator accommodation locations to zones, mix of locals and visitors Arrival and departure patterns for each user group depending on event and venue Estimated attendances determined by popularity of events, progress stage (finals, preliminaries, etc.) and time of day Use of public transport (spectators and workforce), frequencies and estimated modal splits Private vehicle fleet availability estimates This software allowed for calculations of arrivals and departures for any combination of user group, venue and transport mode. Results could be provided for any day broken into intervals of 30 minutes. Updated data were imported to this demand model as the game schedule changed, venue data became finalized and assumptions were revised. The results were utilized as follows: Spectator demand estimates by transport mode were used by the Athens Urban Transport Organization to plan the public transport schedules and frequencies during the period of the games. The Olympic family origin-destination matrices were used as input to the SATURN traffic model to approximate traffic volumes for characteristic peak periods. SATURN Olympic Movement Assignment and Simulation Model A traffic simulation and assignment model was developed with the SATURN software. It was used to estimate the expected traffic volumes and level of service for the Olympic family movements. 7 Trip demand by origin-destination pairs for each Olympic family category, mode of transportation and time period was determined by the results of the demand estimate model described in the previous section. Spectator bus volumes were provided on fixed routes and frequencies as determined by the Athens Urban Transport Organization planning. The same approach was used for the traffic volumes generated by the athletes coaches and technical officials, which also follow fixed routes and their frequency as determined by the games schedule. The traffic net- SOURCE: DENCO, DROMOS, Brown & Root, Planet/Ernst & Young. Use of SATURN Model to Analyse Olympic Traffic. 3rd Implementation Phase. ATHOC, Transport Division, ITE JOURNAL / OCTOBER 2006

4 work was modeled in two different levels of detail: For the whole greater Athens area, the Olympic traffic network and some important alternative routes were included. Olympic family movements were expected to use only this network, where some special regulations were applied to provide the best possible level of service. These regulations included traffic lanes to be used exclusively by Olympic family vehicles, turn prohibitions at critical intersections, etc. In the venues vicinity, the traffic network was modeled in a more detailed way, including all possible routes to the entrance and exit points of the venues and the parking lots designated for each Olympic family category. Several peak-hour periods were examined to represent critical traffic conditions, either in combination with normal city traffic or during the maximum expected demand at specific venues. Different scenarios and traffic conditions were evaluated, and the traffic model results were used to: Support decisions regarding the extent and locations at which traffic lanes for exclusive Olympic use should be implemented. Provide the Olympic family traffic volumes to the comprehensive EMME2 model to evaluate the effects of the proposed measures on normal city traffic. Assist in the design of the individual venue access network and facilities (such as venue entrance/exit routes, checkpoint locations and capacities, size and location of parking lots, bus terminals, etc.). Olympic family traffic volumes estimated by the SATURN model for specific peak periods for the whole greater Athens area are presented in Figure 2. A comparison of these traffic volumes with the Olympic transport strategic plan, given at approximately the same scale in Figure 1, shows that all major Olympic traffic flows are served by the Olympic ring and other Olympic avenues, where exclusive lanes were provided for Olympic movements. Signalized intersection Existing roads traffic operation Traffic operation changes Entrances & traffic control zone (ZEEK) Parking control Zone (ZEΣ) Metro station Figure 3. Athens Olympic sports complex, access plan and control zones. Figure 4 shows an example of the more detailed traffic volumes estimated through the SATURN model for each venue. It refers to the major traffic generators of the games, the Athens Olympic Sports Complex and the closely located International Broadcasting and Main Press Centers, as illustrated in Figure 3. Roads with exclusive Olympic use or Olympic lanes Roads with mixed traffic use Temporary road block DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION New and Improved Road Infrastructure Besides the road projects programmed for the greater Athens area before the assignment of the Olympic Games, all additional road projects Olympic highway projects proposed in the candidacy file and the strategic plan were completed on time. The Olympic highway projects included new major arterials, four major interchanges on existing arterials and a large number of new or improved roads leading to the various venues. The total cost of these Olympic projects was about 700 million euros. Public Transport All spectator movements were planned SOURCE: Frantzeskakis, J. Planning Athens Transportation for the Olympic Games and a First Evaluation of the Results. Proceedings of the Transportation Science and Technology Congress (TRANSTEC), Athens, Greece: September 1 5, Special Session, From Athens 2004 to Beijing ITE JOURNAL / OCTOBER

5 SOURCE: DENCO, DROMOS, Brown & Root, Planet/Ernst & Young. Use of SATURN Model to Analyse Olympic Traffic. 3rd Implementation Phase. ATHOC, Transport Division, Figure 4. Predicted Olympic traffic volumes at the Athens Olympics sports complex. to be served exclusively by mass transportation; therefore, special attention was given to improve public transport. Furthermore, normal city traffic during the games was urged to use public transport. Besides the measures to discourage the use of private cars, such as the parking control zones mentioned later in this feature, special express bus lines to the venues were introduced and the frequency of selected existing bus lines was increased. In addition, two new fixed rail systems were introduced: a tramway connecting the western coast to the center and a suburban railroad to the airport. The existing new metro lines were extended. The old metro line, connecting the Piraeus Port and the city center to the major Athens Olympic Sports Complex (see Figure 5), was improved considerably (in terms of capacity, stations, etc.). Signing Special Olympic information signs were provided on the accesses and within the venues. Special signs and road markings also were provided along the Olympic lanes. Furthermore, the city s inadequate signing system was improved. Twenty-four variable message signs were installed to inform drivers of current traffic conditions and to indicate alternative routes when necessary. Signalization and Traffic Control Centers The signalization control system was upgraded and extended by replacing the existing installations and incorporating 150 additional intersections in the central system. An advanced system of traffic monitoring and control was developed. Real-time collection of traffic data (number of vehicles, speeds, occupation, etc.) was carried out through 75 machine vision cameras and 2,000 detectors located on major arteries. The monitoring of traffic and the verification of incidents was carried out visually through 208 supervision cameras. 8 Information was collected and managed in three centers. In the traffic control center, specialized personnel monitored the operation and made the necessary adjustments to the plans. In the traffic control operation room, decisions were made on additional traffic management measures to cope with incidents or other special conditions. In addition, an Olympic transport operation system was established in the ATHOC 2004 headquarters where the Olympic family movements, carried out by a fleet of 4,000 passenger cars and minibuses and 1,800 buses, were controlled on the basis of a detailed operation plan. Traffic Management In addition to the considerable extensions mentioned above and improvements to the road network and the public transport system, it was necessary to further improve the conditions of the transportation system to meet the increased demands and specific requirements of the Olympic Games. A transportation system management program to fully utilize the increased capacity of the road network and to favor Olympic movements as well as a traffic demand management program to decrease vehicular movements as much as possible, especially during peak periods, were implemented. Parking control zones (ZES) were defined around all athletic venues to discourage the use of private cars. In these zones, parking was allowed only for residents and employees who were supplied with special cards. Zones of controlled entrance and traffic (ZEEK) were established at critical locations near the 30 ITE JOURNAL / OCTOBER 2006

6 venues, where traffic was allowed only to accredited vehicles (see Figure 3). Olympic lanes for the exclusive use of the Olympic family, the express spectator buses to the venues and emergency vehicles were provided along each Olympic avenue. In some of these avenues, a special bus lane also was operating for normal city buses. In this case, only one of the three lanes per direction was left to serve normal city traffic (passenger cars and taxis). The priority given to the Olympic lanes and prohibition of conflicting left turns secured high speeds and a better level of service for Olympic movements. Further restrictions, such as banning trucks in certain areas and time periods, prohibiting left-turning movements and enforcing parking prohibition at critical locations were established according to the estimated traffic flows and were implemented successfully. Complete banning of private cars and periodic banning of cars with even or odd license plate numbers was studied to be applied at certain locations and periods in case these measures were justified by actual traffic flows. Public compliance with other parking and traffic restrictions and the extensive use of public transport made the application of these restrictions unnecessary. PUBLIC AWARENESS Special attention was paid to provide timely information to the public on continuously changing traffic conditions during the games and on the proper means and routes for both the games and normal city activities. A detailed spectator s guide was prepared with a number of special maps (see Figure 5), and pamphlets were available for additional information. Regular radio and television spots were broadcast regarding the use of public transport and parking prohibition at critical locations as well as special cases of prohibiting or diverting traffic. EVALUATION OF RESULTS The Olympic Games were a success in all respects, including the critical transportation area. The Athens transportation system, although badly congested before the Olympic Games, presented no problems during the games. The main factors Figure 5. Fixed rail system and competition venues/complexes. contributing to the successful services provided to the Olympic family, the spectators and normal city traffic were as follows: The comprehensive initial planning of the transportation facilities in relation to the location of the major areas of Olympic activities. The on-time completion of all transportation projects planned and programmed in the candidacy file. The successful application of traffic management schemes. The respect of users to prohibitions, although complete enforcement was impossible due to the magnitude of the task. The substantial increase in the use of public transport due to: - Major extensions and improvements in levels of service for existing public transport; - Introduction of two fixed-rail transport modes (suburban railroad, tram); - Special express bus lines; - Extension of service after midnight; - No charge for Olympic Games ticket holders; - Prohibition of spectator parking within and in the vicinity of venues; - Fear for vehicular traffic congestion; and - Extensive campaigns. THE OLYMPIC LEGACY Athens The new and improved infrastructure and the outcome of the systematic effort to implement the transportation system and demand management have left a precious legacy for facing increasing traffic problems. Following the long construction period before the games, when Athenians experienced serious problems in its ITE JOURNAL / OCTOBER

7 transportation movements, the city now has the opportunity to use a non-congested major road network and a high quality public transport system. To avoid the future effects of increasing car ownership, Athenians are trying to make the best use of this new transportation infrastructure to reduce the use of passenger cars. The number of annual trips per inhabitant by public transport, which declined from a maximum of 480 in 1965 to a low of 140 around 1990, has increased since then to more than 200. The government should help this effort by continuing to improve public transport, providing park and ride areas, enforcing illegal parking prohibition and conducting related transportation campaigns. The experience gained in the traffic management effort during the games is being used to fully utilize the increased capacity of the improved transportation infrastructure. Future Olympic Games The efficient operation of the transportation system in the cities that host future Olympic Games is a critical success parameter. A comprehensive international research project on transportation during the more recent Olympic Games, such as from Barcelona, Spain, to Athens, is necessary to better comprehend the experiences of these cities. Such research would include a comparative analysis of the available transportation infrastructure in relation to the location of the athletic and other venues and the traffic management actions taken. General guidelines for planning, organization and operation of the Olympic Games transportation systems could be developed to provide a practical guide for future host cities. 9 CONCLUSIONS The special transportation demands created during the Olympic Games, combined with the normal city traffic in urban areas that already experience increasing congestion problems, require careful planning of new transportation infrastructure and special traffic and demand management. The Athens Olympic Games confirmed the principle applied in Sydney that spectator movements should be served exclusively by a properly organized public transport system and that no private car parking should be available at venues. 10 In both cities, proper public awareness campaigns and enforcement techniques secured the success of the application of this principle. Special treatment of Olympic family and spectator movements through exclusive Olympic lanes ensured high speeds for these movements. Pre-determined alternate routes prevented delays due to incidents or other unforeseen causes. Athens now is trying to make the best use of the new infrastructure and the traffic and demand management experience gained through the games. The experience of Athens and of the other recent Olympic Games also should be fully comprehended by future host cities. In this respect, comprehensive research is being proposed to analyze successes and failures, to provide a practical guide for future Olympic Games. In the meantime, the experience of the more recent Athens and Sydney Olympic Games, especially in the modeling process and in the selection and application of transportation system and demand management measures, will be useful to the two next host cities, Beijing, China and London, England. References 1. Athens 2004 Olympic Bid Committee. Candidacy File, Athens 2004, Volume III, Theme 14, Transport Frantzeskakis, J. Signalisation and Telematics Before and After the Olympic Games: Particularities of Athens. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference: Traffic Signals Recent Developments. Transport Telematics. Patras, Greece, May 17 18, 2004 (In Greek). 3. International Olympic Committee. Report of the IOC: Evaluation Commission for the Games of the XXXVIII Olympiad in Athens Olympic Games Organising Committee (ATHOC) 2004, Transport Division. Olympic Transport Strategic Plan ATHOC 2004, Transport Division. Olympic Transport Operation Plan Attiko Metro S.A. Trip Forecasts in Attika: Summer Period of ATHOC 2004, Transport Division DENCO, DROMOS, Brown & Root, Planet/Ernst & Young. Use of SATURN Model to Analyse Olympic Traffic. 3rd Implementation Phase. ATHOC, Transport Division, Frantzeskakis, note 2 above. 9. Frantzeskakis, J. Planning Athens Transportation for the Olympic Games and a First Evaluation of the Results. Proceedings of the Transportation Science & Technology Congress (TRANSTEC), Athens, Greece: September 1 5, Special Session, From Athens 2004 to Beijing Olympic Roads and Transport Authority (ORTA). Olympic Transport Plan. Transport Operations for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. JOHN M. FRANTZESKAKIS, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), former director of the Department of Transportation Planning and Engineering and former dean of the civil engineering faculty of NTUA. He is a graduate of the Yale Bureau of Highway Traffic and is a member and past president of the Hellenic ITE. He prepared and supported the Transportation chapter of the Athens candidacy files for the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games and headed the team of consultants that prepared the transport strategic plan for the 2004 Olympics. He is a life member of ITE. MICHAEL J. FRANTZESKAKIS, is director of the Transportation Section of DENCO S.A. He holds a master of science in civil engineering transportation from NTUA and a master of science in management science from the University of London, Imperial College of Science and Technology. He is a member of the Hellenic ITE. He participated in the preparation of the transport strategic plan for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and directed and/or participated in the studies and designs of various Olympic projects. He is responsible for modeling the demand and simulation of Olympic movements. 32 ITE JOURNAL / OCTOBER 2006

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