Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
A guide for practitioners!

You are here

Planned Special Events

Planned events have a significant impact on Road Network Operations. They include sporting events, concerts, festivals and conventions taking place in permanent multi-use venues (for example – arenas, stadiums, racetracks, fairgrounds, amphitheatres and convention centres). There also include less frequent public events such as parades, fireworks displays, bicycle races, sporting games, motorcycle rallies, seasonal festivals and milestone celebrations at temporary venues.

In the USA, “Planned Special Events” are known as “Planned Activities” and are defined as: “a public activity with a scheduled time, location and duration that may impact the normal operation of the surface transport network due to increased travel demand and/or reduced capacity attributed to event staging.”

Five categories of special events can be identified based on their characteristics:

  • unique or recurring event at a permanent venue, such as sporting events
  • continuous event, that attracts high volumes of traffic over a number of days, such as a major theme park
  • street-use event, such as a parade or demonstration which requires the road to be closed
  • regional or multi-venue event, such as the Olympic Games and football (soccer) World Cup
  • rural event, such as country fairs, religious gatherings and festivals (for example - the Woodstock Festival in New York State USA and Glastonbury in the UK)

These are all different forms of traffic incident and often require major planning for traffic management, preparation and response. They are distinct from other incident types in a number of important respects – one being that they involve a new set of stakeholders that do not play a part in most other types of incidents and emergencies. They include:

  • event sponsors
  • event organisers
  • visitors’ bureaus
  • venue managers and operations staff
  • event planners and consultants
  • event construction teams
  • caterers
  • bus, coach and limousine companies
  • social media (as opposed to public safety media)
  • security companies
  • long and short-haul transport companies
  • elected officials

Advice to Practitioners

Planned Special Events can have a significant impact on travel safety, mobility and journey time reliability across all the transport modes and roadway facilities. Managing travel for these events involves:

  • advanced operations planning, stakeholder coordination and partnerships
  • developing a multi-agency transport management plan
  • raising awareness of general public and event patrons of potential travel impacts
  • coordinating agency services and resource sharing.

Events such as the London Olympic Games require considerable planning. Traffic lanes dedicated to vehicles carrying competitors to their events were introduced, a command and control centre was established and additional roadside hardware was deployed (mainly VMS and vehicle detection equipment) – (See Case Study: London 2012 Olympics)

The practice of managing travel for Planned Special Events should target the following objectives:

  • establish innovative stakeholder partnerships that continuously follow the 4-Cs (Communication, Cooperation, Coordination and Consensus) - and personnel and equipment resource sharing, including traffic operations, the Traffic Management Centre and mobile Safety Service patrols (See Traffic Control Centres and Mobile Patrols)
  • adopt procedures and protocols to improve advance planning and day-of-event operations, including a comprehensive Traffic Management Plan, complete with incident response scenarios (See Traffic Management Plans).
  • mitigate potential travel impacts to other road users and the community at-large, particularly using travel information systems (See Travel Information Systems)
  • apply technologies, such as Portable Dynamic Message Signs, to minimise field personnel requirements and improve travel conditions monitoring and reduce congestion (See Use of VMS)
  • influence travel choices through public transport and Travel Demand Management initiatives and traveller information dissemination (See Transport Demand Management)
  • facilitate sound traffic management team organisation and communication on the day of the event (See Integrated Operations)
  • integrate results of evaluation of events handling into regional planning activities for future Planned Special Events – including updating TCC, Traffic Incident Management and/or Emergency Operations Plans (See Incident Response Planning)

The goals of managing traffic and travel for these events are as follows:

  • predictability – applying integrated team management processes between the different organisations involved
  • safety – though active Traffic Incident Management Teams and Safety Service Patrols
  • efficiency – using the entire ITS toolkit for traffic monitoring, travel information, network operations and traffic control
  • meeting public and event patron expectations – by maximising the efficiency of traffic operations
Reference sources

Latoski, S.P., W.M. Dunn, B. Wagenblast, J. Randall, M.D. Walker (2003) Managing Travel for Planned Special Events Report No. FHWA-OP-04-010, US Federal Highways Administration, available at

US Federal Highway Administration. Managing Travel for Planned Special Events (Fact Sheet) at

EasyWay Consortium (2012) Forecast and Real Time Event Information ITS Deployment Guideline TIS-DG02 available for download at: